Kumquats are a group of small fruit-bearing trees in the flowering plant family Rutaceae. The edible fruit closely resembles that of an orange, but is much smaller and ovular, being the size and shape of a large olive. The plant is native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. The earliest historical reference to kumquats appears in the literature of China in the 12th century. They have long been cultivated in India, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and southeast Asia. They were introduced to Europe in 1846 and shortly thereafter into North America. Kumquats have been called "the little gold gems of the citrus family".
Kumquats are cultivated in China, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Nepal, Japan, Middle East, Iran, Europe, southern Pakistan and the souther U.S. (notably Florida, Louisiana, Alabama) and California. The main varieties are:
- Round Kumquats (Fortunella japonica): is an evergreen tree producing a golden-yellow fruit. The fruit is small and usually round, but can be oval shaped. The peel has a sweet flavor, but the fruit has a sour center. The fruit can be eaten cooked, but is mainly used to make marmalades and jellies.
- Oval Kumquats (Fortunella margarita):The fruit is eaten whole, skin and all. The inside is sour, but the skin has the sweetest flavor, when eaten together it produces an unusual fresh flavor.
- Jiangsu Kumquats (Fortunella obovata): bears edible fruit that can be eaten raw. The fruit can be made into jelly and marmalade. The fruit may be round or bell-shaped. It is a bright orange when fully ripe.
When I first started to work in supermarkets, I was not yet in the Produce Department. I was in "Grocery" as a stock clerk. I would occaisonally talk to the people in Produce. There was this one guy who was a part-timer who had this sign in his car, probably pilfered from the store, that said "Kumquat". When I asked about it, he told me that it was his name for people of little intelligence or maturity. You Kumquat!
Kumquats are a rich source of dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and pigment anti-oxidants. Poly-phenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants such as carotenes, luteins, and zea xanthins with the phytochemicals in kumquats help scavange harmful oxygen free radicals and thereby help protect us from cancers, diabetes, degenerative diseases, and infections. Kumquats contain vitamins A, C, and E and also good levels of B-complex vitamins as well as modest amounts of minerals
Culinary uses include candying and kumquat preserve, marmalade and jelly. Kumquats can be sliced and added to sakads, and has been used as a garnish to cocktails. Ways to eat kumquats:
- Out of hand
- Add to a green salad halved, chopped, or thinly sliced.
- Make into preserves
- Toss in a fruit salad
- Make chutney: chop kumquats and simmer with a bit of minced garlic, fresh grated ginger, and honey or brown sugar to taste until mixture slightly thickens. Serve with fish chicken, or pork.
- Make marmalade
Florida and California kumquats are usually on the market from October to April. Imports ensure that kumquats are available year round. The kumquat is celebrated annually in Dade City, Florida, U.S.A. with the Annual Kumquat Festival.
Kumquats must be allowed to fully ripen on the tree before they are picked. Look for firm fruit with brightly colored rinds an no blemishes. They are often sold in pint containers with the stems and leaves still attached. Kumquats will keep 5-6 days at room temperature. or 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. Wash fresh fruit in cool water. Gently pat dry with a soft cloth or tissue. Kumquats taste best if they are gently rolled or squeezed between the fingers before eating as this unifies the ingredients in the rind and the tart flesh.
So.....Eat up! Enjoy! I'll show you how.
Simple but good:
Orange - Kumquat Marmalade
1 large navel orange
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup kumquats sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Use a knife to remove peel from orange. Set aside orange. Cut white pith from peel. Place peel in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and drain. Repeat 2 more times. Let cool slightly.
Finely chop peel and with reserved orange place in a medium saucepan and add kumquats, sugar, red pepper flakes, black pepper and 2 cups water. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer stirring occaisonally until citrus is soft and water is evaporated (35 - 45 minutes). Let cool and mix in oranage juice.