Small in size but big on flavor, kumquat fruit are a healthy, tasty addition to your diet.
To a novice, at first glance it might be mistaken for a tangerine-colored grape tomato. It’s got a funny name. When people eat it, they consume the whole thing – skin and all. As for the flavor…well, to paraphrase Bill the Bard, “though she be but little, she is fierce.” What is it? It’s a kumquat – and if you’ve never tasted one, you’re missing out.
Just what IS a kumquat, and what do kumquats taste like?
Kumquat trees are native to Southeast Asia, where the meiwa kumquat and other kumquat varieties have been dietary staples for centuries. In the Cantonese dialect the name means “golden orange” or “golden tangerine,” but in addition to being much smaller than it’s citrus-y cousins, the juice is tangy and sour while the thin, soft skin is sweet (in fact, the skin is the sweetest part of the fruit).
Kumquat trees were first brought to North America during the mid-19th Century. While they can survive at lower temperatures more than many citrus trees, kumquat trees produce larger and sweeter fruits in warm climates. Thus, the ideal outdoor growing environment for a kumquat tree is in Florida and California.
Are kumquats good for you?
For its small size, the kumquat is a nutritional powerhouse. Like most citrus fruits, it’s rich in both vitamin C (73% of the RDI in one 100-gram serving) and dietary fiber (6.5 grams per serving). It’s also rich in antioxidants which, along with the high levels of vitamin C, help support a healthy immune system.
Going on a hike? Take along a handful of fresh kumquats – 80% of the fruit’s weight comes from water, so it’s helpful for keeping you hydrated. The fact that it’s low-calorie (71 calories per serving) and low in fat make it not only a delicious snack, but one that’s healthy and diet-friendly, too.
Can kumquats be used in recipes?
What does kumquat taste like? You now know they’re rather sour when eaten fresh, but there are many other ways you can enjoy kumquats. Here are just a few ideas:
- The sweet-and-sour taste of the kumquat, along with its pectin-rich seeds, make it ideal for making homemade marmalade.
- The kumquat’s strong acidity makes it a fabulous addition to meat dishes (particularly beef and lamb).
- Candied kumquats are excellent cocktail garnishes; they also make elegant holiday gifts.
- The fruit mellows as it softens, making it an ideal addition to Asian-inspired soups.
Can you keep a kumquat tree indoors?
Depending on the variety of the tree, kumquat season in the North American can be from December to April (with February and March being the peak months). Even during peak season, though, you might have trouble finding kumquats in your local grocery store (you may have better luck scouting out a farmers’ market, organic grocer, or Asian market).
Never fear – you can grow your own kumquats at home relatively easily by getting a dwarf kumquat tree! A dwarf kumquat tree can be kept at 5 to 6 feet in height and has glossy, dark-green glossy leaves and tiny white flowers. It only requires annual pruning, making it an ideal tree that can be grown in a small garden or a pot. In addition to providing fresh, healthy and delicious fruit, it makes a picturesque accent in a sunroom!
Want to taste a sweet kumquat?
Here’s a simple trick for turning fresh, sour kumquats into fresh, sweet kumquats: first, nibble off the top part of the kumquat. Next, squeeze out the juice (yes, really! There isn’t much, so you needn’t feel like you’re being wasteful). Finally, pop the rest of it into your mouth. Voila! By squeezing out the small amount of sour juice, what’s left is sweet as candy (you also get the added benefit of getting rid of the tiny seeds, too).