A kumquat looks and tastes like a citrus fruit, and was in fact categorized in the citrus family once before. In 1915, however, USDA plant physiology chief Dr. Walter Swingle gave the fruit its own genus, Fortunella.
Like Buddha’s hand, pomelo, and tangerines, it too is often gifted and consumed during the Chinese New Year. Kumquat’s Cantonese homonym is “golden good fortune.” Though the name Fortunella would appear to derive from this translation, its scientific classification is actually in honor of Robert Fortune. This Scotsman brought the fruit to London in 1846, and he also smuggled Chinese tea and cultivation secrets out of the country and into other parts of the world.
Origin of Kumquat
Kumquats originate in South Asia, most likely in China. In fact, the small fruit is mentioned in Chinese texts dating back as early as 118BC. Europe’s first mentions of it appear in the writings of Italian Battista Ferrari, when he describes his conversation with a Portuguese missionary working in China circa 1646. By 1712, Japan took interest in cultivating the sweet-skinned fruit as well.
Today, the fruit grows in several Asian countries including Japan, South Korea, southern Pakistan and Taiwan. Parts of the Middle East, Europe and the US also cultivate kumquats.
Availability of Kumquat in India
Indian farmers cultivate kumquats in South India at higher elevations. In the north, they grow as an ornamental bush and indoor plant. Few regions of India cultivate kumquat on account of its inability to grow in any humid, subtropical or warm temperate region.
Kumquat thrives in areas with hot summers and misty, chilly conditions that are too cold for other citrus fruits. Though a few Indian states in the north may provide the fruit with such weather, kumquats grows better in the country’s northern neighbors of Pakistan, Nepal and China.
Kumquat season is during the winter months.
Where to find Kumquat in India
Despite its limited production within the country, India imports kumquats during the winter. Shipments of the country’s limited supply, however, are not consistent or predictable.
If asking for a kumquat in North India, a vendor may hand over a “hasara.” This fruit is actually the citrus fruit calamondin, not a kumquat. Though these fruits are the same size and color, kumquats have a sweeter taste and thinner skin than most calamondins. For culinary purposes, however, calamondins and kumquats are interchangeable.
Checking for Ripeness in Kumquat
When ripe, kumquats lose its green color and adopt an orange hue. Its skin should be smooth and waxy, and feel heavy for its size. The sweetness of a kumquat depends on the variety. Round cultivars called Meiwas are much sweeter than the oval-shaped Nagami kumquats, which can be sourer than lemons. If unsure of the taste, nibble on a kumquat before purchasing a full bag.
Avoid selecting kumquats with bruises and marks. Their thin skin is easily damaged, so inspect fruits carefully. Also steer clear of buying sticky kumquats with translucent skin, as these are signs that the fruits are overripe.
Taste of Kumquat
Kumquats are one of the few fruits with an edible skin. Perhaps more surprisingly, the skin tastes better than the flesh. Its skin tastes like the smell of an orange: bright, zesty, citrusy and sweet. The juicy flesh is sour, tart and can be puckering, but these refreshing notes counterbalance the skin’s sweetness nicely.
Nutritional Value of Kumquat
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of edible kumquat provides the following nutritional values:
15.9g Carb (5% RDI)
6.5g Fiber (26% RDI)
.9g Fat (1% RDI)
1.9g Protein (4% RDI)
290IU Vitamin A (6% RDI)
43.9mg Vitamin C (73% RDI)
.2mg Vitamin E (1% RDI)
B1/Thiamine (2% RDI)
.1mg Riboflavin (5% RDI)
.4mg Niacin (2% RDI)
Vitamin B6 (2% RDI)
17mcg Folate (4% RDI)
52mg Calcium (6% RDI)
.9mg Iron (5% RDI)
20mg Magnesium (5% RDI)
19mg Phosphorous (2% RDI)
.1mg Copper (5% RDI)
.1mg Manganese (7% RDI)
Health Benefits of Kumquat
Kumquats have several health benefits: they’re high in vitamin C, an essential nutrient known to boost immunity, fight respiratory problems and improve skin health. Kumquats are also high in fiber, and thus aid with bowel and intestinal health.
According to the book, “Encyclopedia of Traditional Chinese Medicines,” the fruits are prescribed to treat several ailments. Kumquat fruit rectifies qi, resolves depression, treats hangovers, and promotes digestion. The leaves remedy liver and lung problems.
Numerous medical studies have been conducted on kumquats. These are a sample of the findings:
--The International Journal of Molecular Sciences published a study showing that the oils within kumquats are antimicrobial and antibacterial
--As published in a 2012 article of Food Chemistry, kumquat extracts inhibited prostate cancer cell growth.
--A 2010 study conducted by researchers in Korea concluded that kumquats have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities against skin pathogens, thereby making the fruit a prime candidate for skin health care applications.
--A 2009 Plant Foods for Human Nutrition study published the works of scientists in Greece showing significant levels of antioxidants and bioactive phenols, compounds known to preserve DNA health and reduce the risk of cancer.
Note: Avoid eating kumquats if on the breast cancer drug, tamoxifen—compounds in the fruit’s rind reduce the drug’s efficacy.
How to Open/Cut:
Kumquats require no peeling of its sweet skin, though many remove the seeds before adding to dishes and drinks. The fruit’s small size makes de-seeding an easy task: cut the fruit in half, and use a teaspoon to wedge the seeds from the fruit.
Store at room temperature only if they will be used immediately; otherwise, refrigerate loosely in a paper bag. The fruits will only keep for two days, so consume kumquats quickly.
Candy the rind to prolong kumquat’s shelf life. Or, de-seed the fruit, and then pulse the skin and juice lightly: place into ice cube trays and freeze.
|Kumquat chutney from|
Kumquat Recipe Ideas and Uses:
Kumquats have many culinary applications, including the following:
--Make marmalade by boiling the fruit with sugar, lemon juice and orange juice
--Make candied kumquats: for every one-cup of fruit, use ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup of water. Chop the kumquats and add to the sugary water. Reduce on a low heat until a syrupy consistency is achieved.
--Add pureed kumquats into a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Note: adding oats will absorb the moisture of the kumquats.
--Include deseeded kumquats as part of a tagine recipe. Add the fruits when incorporating the other ingredients to simmer, such as the other vegetables or chickpeas.
--Make a sweetened kumquat puree and add atop cheesecake, tarts, angel cake and ice cream
--Include loosely chopped kumquats in salads, especially those with a lemon-based dressing. Or, make a salad dressing from kumquats instead of using orange juice or lemon juice.
--Add kumquat juice to alcoholic drinks such as mojitos, hard lemonades, ciders, and mimosas
--Incorporate kumquats in cranberry relish recipes
--Make pickled kumquat by briefly boiling the whole fruits until tender. Set the fruits in a jar of water and add chili powder, salt and turmeric. Let the concoction sit for a day. Dry roast mustard seeds and more chili powder, fenugreek and cumin seeds. Once roasted, powder these and add the mix to the kumquats. Add the oil and asafetida, store in a jar, and let the pickled kumquat sit for two days.
--Make chutney by substituting the kumquats for raw mangoes. When making the chutney, simmer kumquats on the stove for approximately 20 minutes.
--Substitute kumquats in recipes calling for citron, oranges, or limes
|Kumquat syrup from|
Orange, tangerine, pomelo, lemon, citron, Buddha’s hand, mango, kokum, ambarella, amla, bael, bignay, bilimbi, calamondin, cape gooseberry, carambola, cochin goraka, elephant apple, garcinia cambogia, hachiya persimmon, horse mango, lime, kiwi, pomegranate, pineapple, lychee, strawberry
Vegetables: Asparagus, fiddleheard ferns, broccoli, spinach, rhubarb, kale, onion
Herbs, spices, and oil: orange juice, limejuice, lemon juice, citrus rind, seltzer, champagne, vanilla, cinnamon, chai, cardamom, nutmeg, anise, chocolate, almond, walnut, pecan, cashew, nut butter, sesame, soy sauce, salt, sugar, jaggery, honey, ginger, green tea, earl grey, eucalyptus, honeysuckle, orange blossom, jasmine, mint, basil, vanilla, chili powder, vodka
For pickling/curries: turmeric, cumin, mustard seed, star anise, garlic, ginger, onion, pepper, vinegar
Fortunella japonica (round kumquat)
Fortunella margarita (oval kumquat)