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Food

What Is a Kumquat? How to Eat Kumquats

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 3 min read

If you’ve ever come across a basket of colorful, fresh kumquats at a farmer’s market, at first glance you may mistake them for baby oranges. But wait, you can eat these little fruits whole—skins and all. One bite of a kumquat will have your mouth puckering from their intensely tart flavor. These miniature oval-shaped fruits are the smallest members of the citrus family and have a sweet edible peel that makes them ideal for a homemade batch of marmalade.

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What Are Kumquats?

Kumquats are miniature citrus fruit that closely resembles the orange. They grow on small kumquat trees, are placed in the genus category Fortunella in the Rutaceae plant family. The peel of the kumquat is thin and sweet, with a tart flesh, making the fruit easy to be eaten whole. The majority of kumquats in North America are grown in California and Florida, with its peak season between the months of January through March.

What Do Kumquats Look and Taste Like?

Kumquats are recognizable by their petite size and smooth, bright orange peel. They are one of the few citrus fruits that do not require peeling due to a thin, sweet edible skin with no bitter pith. Kumquats have a sour flesh that is best eaten along with the peels to balance out the tart flavors. They have small edible seeds that can be eaten or discarded.

7 Different Varieties of Kumquats

  1. Meiwa Kumquats (or round kumquat): These small fruits are round in shape and have a golden orange-colored kumquat peel. Meiwa kumquats are much sweeter than other varieties of kumquats.
  2. Nagami Kumquats (or oval kumquat): A common variety of kumquats in the United States. These oblong-shaped fruits have a bright orange peel and a sweet-tart flavor that makes them great in marmalades and jellies.
  3. Centennial Variegated Kumquat: A Nagami hybrid with a larger oval-shaped fruit with pale yellow and dark green striping. It has an acidic flavor and juicy flesh.
  4. Jiangsu Kumquat: A bell-shaped kumquat fruit with a flavor milder than other varieties.
  5. Fukushu Kumquat: A hybrid of kumquat and mandarin. It is larger than a typical kumquat, with a flattened round shape and smooth rind that makes it ideal for candying.
  6. Mandarinquat: A cross between a kumquat and a mandarin. Oblong-shaped with an appearance similar to small tangelos.
  7. Limequat: A cross between key lime and kumquats. The rind is smooth and light yellow with an sour taste.
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How to Eat Kumquats

With a sweet skin and tart flesh, kumquats can be eaten whole—skin, seeds, and all. Kumquats are also commonly used in marmalade, jellies, and for baking purposes. There are many ways to use kumquats to add a citrus zing to your dishes: Try slicing them thin and used to add a tart finish to salads or made into a chutney served alongside savory dishes such as duck, chicken, or seafood. In Chinese cuisine, kumquats are made into a tea with honey and ginger to help heal colds and flu.

8 Ways to Cook With Kumquats

These kumquat recipes will punch up any ordinary dish.

  1. Kumquat marmalade: Finely chopped kumquats along with their peels are combined with sugar and boiled until thickened. This colorful and tangy marmalade goes well on toast for breakfast or with cheeses such as Comté or goat cheese.
  2. Candied kumquats: Candied kumquats are made by combining chopped kumquats with sugar and water, and cooked until the peels become translucent. Serve on salads, pork, chicken, or with dessert. Save the syrup base to use as a cocktail mixer.
  3. Preserved kumquats: To extend the shelf life of kumquats, try preserving whole fruit in a mixture of sugar and honey. Preserves can be spooned over cheese, ice cream, or served with roasted chicken.
  4. Kumquat chutney: The sour and sweet flavors of kumquats work well with apricots and cranberries in chutney. Refrigerate them in jars and use chutney to dress up a grilled cheese sandwich or serve with poultry and fish. Learn how to make chutney here.
  5. Kumquat and orange marinade: A mixture of fresh orange juice, chopped kumquats, rice wine, soy sauce, garlic, olive oil, and sugar make an Asian marinade that works well with fish or poultry.
  6. Fruit salads: Try combining sliced kumquats with other citrus fruits such as grapefruit, oranges, blood oranges, and mint leaves with honey for a colorful salad.
  7. Winter Salads: The tang of kumquats gives a refreshing flavor to winter salads. Try them sliced or quartered and combine them with endives, frisée, or fennel, and a simple vinaigrette.
  8. Bundt Cake: Try folding in chopped kumquats and candied ginger into a simple cake batter. For a festive finish, bake in a bundt pan and finish with an orange glaze.

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