Natalya

Contributor

The best way to shop? With the seasons. So, every 2 weeks at Kitchen Stories, we’ll be highlighting a different in-season ingredient along with 3 new recipes. To market, we go!

Kumquats are not only the smallest citrus in the world, they’re the only one you can eat completely— sweet skin included—making peeling one of their cousins, say an orange or grapefruit, seem almost tedious. So why not opt for the quicker fix while we’re in the height of their season? Here’s everything you need to know about the most under-looked of citrus fruits!

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1. Hello, my name is kumquat

Kumquats are known as either small trees or tall shrubs – standing about 2.4 – 3.6 m (8-12 ft.) tall. The most popular species is the Nagami kumquat, thought to originally come from southern China. Their name originally comes from the Cantonese word kam kwat, meaning ‘golden orange’ and are a symbol of prosperity. Most botanists classify kumquats as citrus fruits, but due to their sweet edible skin and cold temperature tolerance they’re sometimes classified in their own genus, Fortunella.

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They look a little like miniature oranges, and while some are rounder and others are more of an oval shape, they all share the same explosion of flavor that makes your lips pucker and your eyes squeeze shut. Today, they grow in various parts of Asia, Europe (mainly Greece) and North America (California, Florida and Texas). In the U.S., even hybrids have been created with oranges and limes.

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2. When (and how) to buy perfect kumquats

Similar to picking out the best oranges, the most delicious kumquats are a bright, pristine orange with taut, shiny skin and a bulbous shape. Their skin is thinner and softer than many fruits and therefore more likely to get damaged. They tend to taste even more fresh if you find them with a few green leaves still attached. A few varieties are in season from November to January and others from December to April, but the peak months are February and March.
Not all grocery stores will carry them, but the best places to find them in are farmers markets, organic grocery stores, or Asian markets.

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3. How to store fresh kumquats

Similar to oranges, they last for a few days kept in the kitchen fruit bowl. If kept in a sealed container, they can last up to two weeks in the fridge. Since 80% of their weight is from water, they’re incredibly hydrating to eat will begin shrivel within a week out of the fridge.
If you’re inspired to buy your own kumquat plant (or gift one to someone else), they bear fruit every year and are a delicious gift that keeps on giving!

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4. All the ways to enjoy kumquats

Although they’re most commonly described as tiny and cute, kumquats are adaptable fruits that can be used in a wide range of ways. Kumquats are great chopped up in a breakfast bowl with yogurt and granola and as a fresh snack on the go. The most ancient form of using them is either as a jam or candied with sugar.
The best way to eat a kumquat is to roll them between your fingers until the aromatic oils start to seep out, and then just pop them in your mouth and spit out the little seeds inside. A little surprise when you first bite into a kumquat is the discovery that the peel is in fact the sweet part and the pulp has the sour tangy taste.

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Unlike oranges the skin isn’t as bitter, instead the flavor is lemony. If you absolutely hate eating the skin, you can cut it in half and suck the middle out fairly easily. If you try to peel them first though, be warned you need agile fingers to grip them and you might be left with a puddle of kumquat juice in your hands and not much left to actually eat.

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Though they may be little they are packed with nutritional value. Kumquats contain 73% of vitamin C per 100 grams and generous amounts of Vitamin A, calcium, manganese and fiber.

They’re usually eaten at room temp or cold if kept in the fridge, but you can stew them to create a comforting, sweet marmalade during wintertime. When they simmer their sweetness seeps out and they lose their zest. The really amazing thing about these tiny jewels is that they pair well with salty, sour, bitter or sweet meals and are especially delicious when mixed with pineapples, blood oranges and warming spices such as ginger and cinnamon. In traditional Chinese medicine, kumquats are used to heal a cough or sore throat, in a hot tea with honey.

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5. What to make next

Candied kumquats are one of the most ancient recipes and is still popular today. Give the first recipe a try to make a comforting and nutritional sweet treat in the winter season. Another favorite is adding them to salads, the meal everyone is always trying to upgrade – the zest and sweetness add an extra layer of flavor and the best part is that you just need to cut them in half and they’re ready to be thrown into the bowl!

Kumquat and roasted Brussels sprout salad with avocado dressing

Kumquat and roasted Brussels sprout salad with avocado dressing

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Candied kumquat and caramel cake

Candied kumquat and caramel cake

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Spiced kumquat chutney and ricotta toasts

Spiced kumquat chutney and ricotta toasts

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