The small but mighty kumquat is a delicious fruit that everyone can enjoy. There is so much you can do with this tiny and often underutilized fruit. Keep reading to find out all about eating kumquat fruit with delicious recipe ideas to try.
What is a Kumquat?
So firstly, what exactly is a kumquat? Many people have heard of them but may not know what they look like or how a kumquat tastes.
Kumquats are small fruits that are round or oval in shape and usually bright orange in color. They have a distinctive tart and citrusy smell and taste.
Unlike many other fruits, kumquats can be eaten whole. Every part, from the skin to the inner fruit, is completely edible. The smaller variety of kumquats (Nagami Kumquats), are not much bigger than a grape but they pack a definite flavor punch!
Kumquats (also spelled cumquat) are originally from southern China and Japan and generally prefer a warm climate. Don’t worry if you live in a colder climate and are hoping to grow or purchase fresh kumquats. They are also extremely strong in the cold and can survive temperatures as low as 18°F (-7°C). You can read more about growing kumquats here.
These tiny fruits typically grow on evergreen trees which can be identified by their short stature, glossy dark green leaves, and bundles of orange fruit. You may be tempted to label them as an orange tree, but kumquats grow on the branch to about the size of an olive or on average 1 inch in diameter (2.5cm). That’s the easiest way to tell the difference.
There are four main varieties of kumquats: the Meiwa, Nagami, Marumi, and Fukushu. While other varieties exist, these are the most common types and any kumquat you taste will most likely land in one of those four core groups.
What Does Kumquat Fruit Taste Like?
We all know that the most important part of any fruit is the way it tastes. The kumquat is known for having a unique and powerful flavor. Many people would consider it to be similar to an orange, based on how it looks. And the Chinese word for kumquat translates to “golden orange”. Kumquats definitely have a citrus taste, but they are more than just miniature oranges.
First of all, kumquats have an edible peel or skin. The kumquat peel is generally sweeter whereas the inside of the kumquat fruit is more tart and tangy. They have a perfect combination of sweet and sour that makes kumquats a sort after flavor by many.
Those who are not used to kumquats or have never eaten them before may find them a bit sour or bitter. Keep this in mind if you are unsure about whether or not to just bite into a fresh kumquat. But don’t let a fear of tanginess keep you away from these flavorful fruits. They are an excellent addition to many recipes.
There are also slight flavor differences between the main types of kumquats to keep in mind if you are looking for a particular taste.
- Meiwa: These kumquats are generally the largest variety and a popular snack. They have less juice than other varieties so there is less risk of a mess. Meiwa kumquats are also typically less sour with fewer seeds.
- Nagami: These are the most popular types of kumquats in the United States. They are juicy and full of a mix of flavors. The sweet and tart taste mingles well in this kumquat and that is why it’s so beloved.
- Marumi: One of the smallest varieties of kumquats, marumi kumquats have a stronger citrus smell that is easy to identify. They are not as sweet as other varieties and have a drier bite with less juice.
- Fukushu: These are some of the juiciest kumquats available, and they are very popular in Asia both to eat raw or sugared as candy. The flavor of the Fukushu variety is less sweet and more tart or tangy.
Some of My Favorite Kitchen Items:
When is a Kumquat Ripe?
If you’re hoping to grow, find, or purchase some kumquats it’s important to know their cycle and when they taste best. If you are wondering which kumquats to buy in a grocery store, try giving them a small squeeze on either side with your thumb and pointer finger. The ripe kumquats will be plump and firm without being overly hard. On the other hand, if they are too soft they are most likely overripe.
Color is another great indicator of a perfectly ripe kumquat. The best ones will be a brighter orange with no discoloration across the skin. Any kumquats that have a green or yellow coloring are not yet ripe and should generally be avoided. Once they have been picked, kumquats usually will not continue to ripen.
In the United States, kumquats are officially in season at different times according to where they grow. The best places in the U.S to grow kumquats are Florida and California, so no matter where you are, the kumquats available are most likely from these areas. In Florida, kumquats are in season from November to March. In California, they are available from January to April. These seasons are impacted by kumquat variety and temperature.
The orange and firm kumquats are usually the house favorite, but you may find that you prefer them with more softness or hardness depending on your preferences.
How to Eat Kumquats
Kumquats are one of the rare citrus fruits that can be eaten whole. Many people actually prefer to eat them unpeeled. The slight sweetness of the peel combines with the tart juice for a flavor that so many love. Usually, the best way to eat kumquats is to just bite into one! After you buy your kumquat, rinse it in the sink and let it dry. All you need to do after that is give it a bite.
Of course, not everyone enjoys directly biting into a kumquat. If the tartness or the amount of juice is an issue for you, it’s possible to squeeze the juice out beforehand. You can even squeeze it into a bowl and save it for other recipes. Cutting off one end of the fruit and then squeezing out excess juice can eliminate some of the mess and tangy flavor.
One tip: roll the kumquat between your palms like a ball before eating it. Don’t apply much pressure. This motion helps blend the flavors of the peel and juice. Kumquats are also small enough to be popped right into your mouth and eaten whole! Many find that the longer you chew this fruit, the sweeter it gets. Any seeds you find can just be spit out and discarded but often they are eaten.
Kumquat Recipe Ideas
There are so many quality recipes that use kumquats that will produce some truly delicious results. So if you’re looking for ways to use up lots of kumquats or just some different ways to cook and use kumquats, then here are a selection of recipes to try.
Sweet Kumquat Recipes
Kumquats are utilized in a variety of sweet recipes, but they are quite versatile.
Candied Kumquats – from Simply Recipes. All you need are kumquats, water, and sugar for a simple and sweet treat!
Kumquats are traditionally used for things like jams, marmalades, and compotes.
Kumquat And Star Anise Jam – from Plant Food at Home. This is one of our recipes and is amazing spread on toast or try it with cheese and crackers – yum!
Chef John’s Kumquat Marmalade – from All recipes is a great use of kumquats for a sweet spread. Once again, you need very few ingredients to produce quality results.
Kumquat Compote – from Epicurious. Compote is different from jam, with more fruit pieces left intact in the preserves. Not to mention that kumquat preserves are a staple in many recipes.
Peach, Kumquat & Tangerine Fruit Leather – from Tasty Kitchen is a recipe that uses peaches and a kumquat and tangerine jam to produce tasty fruit leather that can be carried anywhere as a snack.
Outside of jams and compotes, kumquats can be baked into many different desserts.
Kumquat Upside-Down Cake – from Alexandra’s Kitchen twists a traditional dish into something more exciting.
Kumquat Cookies – from Food.com take the simple addition of diced kumquats to make a new and exciting cookie.
Savory Kumquat Recipes
And kumquats do not just have to be sweet. They can be savory as well.
Duck Breasts with Mustard and Candied Kumquats – from Food and Wine is a great example of how to incorporate the sweet and tart kumquat flavor.
Roasted kumquats are an alternative to candied fruit that deepens the flavor and can be used as a topping for salads or other dishes. You can check out How to Roast Kumquats from the Fig Jar to learn more.
Rockfish with Honey Poached Kumquats, Fennel and Olives – from Karista Bennett is a lovely combination of savory and sweet.
Kumquat Chutney – from Baking Sense goes perfectly with ham and turkey or included in a ploughman’s lunch.
Basil Chicken with Kumquats – from Downshiftology combines the flavors of basil with kumquats in the one-pan chicken dish.
Spicy Kumquat Pickle Achar – from Tantalise My Taste Buds preserves kumquats in oil to accompany any dish from eggs to rice.
Kumquat Frequently Asked Questions
Are Kumquats Nutritious?
Kumquats are extremely good for you. They are high in antioxidants, excellent sources of vitamin C, and have high water content.
How Should I Store Kumquats?
Kumquats do not have as long of a shelf life as other citrus fruits, so leaving them out on the counter for a few days is only good if you eat them quickly. Otherwise, kumquats can be refrigerated for about a week or two or frozen for up to several months.
Kumquats are tiny orange bundles of flavor that can be used in a variety of recipes or simply eaten whole. If you’re not growing your own kumquats, you can find them at your local supermarket or specialty store and start munching today. You might just find that kumquats become your new go-to snack!