Is a Kumquat a Fruit or Vegetable?

You might not be familiar with the name Kumquat but you must have seen small, oval fruits that look like baby oranges when visiting a farmer’s market. It is definitely fruit and is not a vegetable. If you have seen tiny oval oranges somewhere, then most likely those are kumquats for sale. But what exactly is a kumquat, and what does a kumquat taste like?

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Kumquat Tree

The small Kumquat tree is a fruit-bearing tree that belongs to the flowering plant family Rutaceae. Kumquat is classified as genus Fortunella but share similar ancestors with oranges and can crossbreed with other citrus cultivars.

What does a kumquat tree look like? It is a slow-growing evergreen shrub or small tree. The typical kumquat tree size is about 8-15 feet tall. The Kumquat tree has dense branches with small thorns and bears dark glossy green leaves. It bears white flowers and produces hundreds – if not thousands – of tiny, sweet-tart fruits with smooth, bright orange peel.

Kumquat Taste

Besides its diminutive size, the kumquat fruit is unique because of how you can eat them. The fruit kumquat does not have any bitter pith and has sweet, paper-thin, edible peel and seed making the fruit suitable to be eaten as a whole. What’s more, the peel of the fruits borne from different kumquat varieties is usually sweeter than the flesh of the fruits. The juicy flesh is tart and complements the sweet skin.  Radical indeed!

Kumquat Varieties

There are four main Kumquat varieties grown all over: The round Marumi Kumquat, Japanese Meiwa, the oval Nagami Kumquat, and the ornamental Hong Kong Wild. There are also other unique varieties of Kumquat hybrids like the Fukushu Kumquat, Eustis Limequat (lime kumquat), and Indio Mandarinquats (Kumquat Mandarin).

  • Marumi Kumquat – This small, juicy, and round fruit is considered to be an ancient Chinese variety with thick, yellow-orange rind. The rind of Marumi Kumquat has a sweet flavor while the flesh is sour. It can be eaten fresh out of hand but is more popularly used to make marmalades and jellies.
  • Meiwa Kumquat – The sweet kumquat Meiwa is round in shape and looks like a large marble with golden-colored rind when ripe. Unlike other Kumquat varieties, the entire fruit (peel and flesh) of Meiwa kumquat taste sweet and is juicy. 
  • Nagami Kumquat – The tart Kumquat Nagami is a common Kumquat variety in the U.S. It offers a sweet-tart flavor making it great for making jellies and marmalades. The fruits of the Nagami Kumquat tree ripen from mid to late winter so are mainly kept as houseplants to protect the fruits from frost and biting cold weather.
  • Hong Kong Wild – This Kumquat variety is prized as an ornamental plant. The fruits from this variety are small and taste acidic and bitter. The Hong Kong Wild is considered to be primitive and the closest to the ancestral species from which all citrus derived from.

When are Kumquats in Season? Kumquats are winter season fruits. Depending on the variety, Kumquats may ripen from November through January, while some are available from mid-December through April.