A kumquat isn’t much bigger than a grape, yet this bite-sized fruit fills your mouth with a big burst of sweet-tart citrus flavor.
What’s a kumquat? Originally grown in China, the word “kumquat” means “golden orange” in Cantonese. Considerably smaller than an orange, however, the kumquat’s not much bigger than a grape, but don’t let kumquat size food you – the bite-sized kumquat fruit fills your mouth with a big burst of sweet-tart citrus flavor.
But just what is a kumquat, and what does a kumquat taste like? A citrus fruit, kumquats look like nothing so much as tiny oranges (if you’re wondering how big is a kumquat fruit, the average size kumquat has a diameter of one inch, or 2.5 centimeters). What further sets the fruit apart is kumquat’s taste, which is twofold – while the flesh itself is very tart, kumquat are usually eaten whole because the peel of the kumquat taste sweet.
Kumquats in the US
There are four species of kumquat: they are the Hong Kong Wild Kumquat, the Marumi Kumquat, the Meiwa Kumquat and the Nagami Kumquat. Of these, the meiwa and the nagami are the types most commonly grown in the United States. Nagami kumquats are the most popular, while meiwa kumquats are larger and sweeter overall than traditional kumquats.
A loquat is not a variety of kumquat. At first glance, the fruit may appear similar, but the main difference between loquat vs. kumquat is that, while kumquats are citrus fruits, loquats are part of the Rosaceae family (like apples, pears, peaches, etc.). Kumquats belong to the Rutaceae family.
Kumquat season in the United States is from November through June, but availability may vary depending on where you live. If you have trouble finding them locally, you may consider growing your own.
You don’t have to live in Florida to grow your own kumquat tree! Look on Citrus.com for a healthy and cold-hardy kumquat tree for sale. Citrus.com’s Nagami Sour Kumquat Tree makes a beautiful, fragrant addition to your indoor plants and, properly cared for, will yield plenty of tasty fruit in season.
How to Eat a Kumquat
Kumquats have a very distinctive taste. They are the only citrus fruit that can be eaten whole, skin and all. The peel is the sweetest part and can be eaten separately. The pulp contains the seeds and juice, which is sour. When eaten together, you get a unique sweet-and-sour taste. The seeds, which should not be eaten, contain pectin, which can be removed by boiling to use for making marmalades, jams and jellies.
Besides eating them out of hand, kumquats can also be used for:
- Chutneys, marinades and sauces for meat, chicken or fish
- Sliced in salads (fruit or leafy green) or sandwiches
- Added to stuffing
- Baked into breads or desserts
- Puréed or sliced for dessert toppings
- Candied or used plain as garnish
- Tiny dessert cups (when halved and scooped out)
- Sliced and steeped in boiling water for tea
Recipes for these ideas can be found online. You can also buy ready-made kumquat jams, jellies, sauces and dried kumquat slices.
When selecting kumquats from your local store (if you’re lucky enough to find them!), choose fruits that are plump and firm and orange (not green) in color. Skip fruits with soft spots or discolored peels. Go organic if you can, and be sure to rinse them well when you get them home.
Kumquats should be stored in the refrigerator, as they will not keep long on the countertop. When kept in the fridge, you should be able to enjoy them for up to two weeks. If you can’t eat them all before they turn, make them into a puree to store in your freezer for later use.
Kumquat Benefits: Nutrition
Kumquats are especially notable for their rich supply of vitamin C and fiber. Kumquats also supply smaller amounts of several B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc. In addition, the edible seeds and the peel of kumquats provide a small amount of omega-3 fats.
As with other fresh fruits, kumquats are very hydrating. About 80% of their weight is from water. The high water and fiber content of kumquats makes them a filling food, yet they’re relatively low in calories. This makes them a great snack when you’re watching your weight.
The edible peels are excellent sources of plant compounds that have high antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties, and contain compounds that support the immune system and lower your risk for certain cancers.
And that’s the 411 on kumquats! If you’ve never tried them, keep an eye out for them in stores starting in November…they just may become your new favorite fruit.