WILD BERGAMOT MINT (Mentha citrata)
By Clare Licher
Bergamot mint is a hybrid between Mentha aquatica and Mentha viridis, and is a native of Europe. It made it’s way to Arizona and was planted in a homesteaders garden many years ago. It then escaped, and has now naturalized quite happily in a single waterway. I stumbled on these plants two years ago in the early Summer, and could see that there was enough to try a distillation, but the timing wasn’t quite right. So I decided to wait several weeks, and check on them again. Sometime between when I first noticed them and when I went back to observe them again, there had been a cloudburst upstream, and the area had flooded. To my dismay, all of the plants had been submerged. I decided to go back again this past Summer. To my delight, they had all recovered beautifully, and there was enough to distill.
Collecting Bergamot mint is a completely uplifting experience (except for the occasional water spiders, which can get quite large). As with wild Peppermint and wild Spearmint, it is best distilled fresh, and yields about 1ml. per pound of plant material. The aroma is a very intriguing and complex combination of Clary Sage, Mint and Citrus. The citrus top note is more evident as the minty, herbaceous notes dissipate. There is not a tremendous amount of literature written about this oil. It is said to have a mild hormonal effect for both men and women, and is sometimes recommended for menopausal symptoms, due to it’s cooling, uplifting, and refreshing nature. I find that once I put this oil on, I cannot stop myself from smelling it again and again!
This Bergamot mint was sustainably harvested from a singular source, so our supply is quite limited.