Delicious, sweet yet tangy, kumquat fruit (cumquat, as the fruit generally recognized in Europe) is a winter/spring seasonal citrus fruits. Botanically, they belong to the Rutaceae family, in the genus, Fortunella, and named so after the botanist Robert Fortune, who brought them from China to Europe in the middle of the 19th century.
Although kumquats taste just like that of other citrus category fruits, they are distinguished in a way that they can be eaten completely including the peel.
Kumquats are a small sized evergreen tree native to South-Eastern parts of mountainous China. Today, they gew for their delicious fruits and as an ornamental tree in many regions of the world, including the USA. A mature kumquat tree bears several hundred olive-sized, brilliant orange color fruits in the winter. On the Interior, the fruit resembles tiny juicy orange-like segments (arils), firmly adhering to each other and with the peel. The pulp has 1-2 seeds placed centrally. The seeds are bitter in taste as in oranges, and generally, spit out.
There exist several cultivars of kumquat; however, only four of them grown widely for their fruits.
Nagami kumquat (Fortunella margarita): The fruit is oval and is the most common variety grown inside USA. It features smooth, light yellow peel and has tart flavor.
Marumi kumquat (Fortunella japonica): The fruit is round, and has distinctive sweet taste and pleasant flavor.
Meiwa kumquat (Fortunella crassifolia): It is round and larger than other verities. It is popular in Japan by name ninpo or neiha kinkan.
Hong Kong Wild (Fortunella hindsii): They are the smallest sized kumquats.
Health benefits of kumquat fruit
Kumquat has a calorific value equivalent to that of grapes. 100 g of fresh fruits provide only 71 calories. Nonetheless, they are one of the incredible sources of health-benefiting phytonutrients such as dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and pigment antioxidants that contribute immensely to overall wellness.
Kumquat is eaten along with its peel, a unique feature that differentiates it from other citrus family fruits. Its peel is rich in many essential oils, antioxidants, and fiber. 100 g whole kumquats provide 6.7 g or 17% of daily recommended levels of fiber that is composed of tannins, pectin, hemicellulose, and other non-starch polysaccharides (NSP).
Fresh kumquats are packed with numerous health benefiting polyphenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants such as carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin, tannins, etc. Kumquat peel composes many important essential oils, including limonene, pinene, α-bergamotene, caryophyllene, α-humulene, and α-murolene. Together, these compounds impart unique citrus aroma to the fruit.
Further, fresh fruits contain adequate levels of some of the antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, C, and E. Altogether, these phytochemical compounds in kumquat fruit help scavenge harmful oxygen-derived free radicals from the human body and thereby protect us from cancers, diabetes, degenerative diseases, and infections.
As in oranges, kumquats also very rich in vitamin-C. 100 g fruit provides 47.9 or 73% of RDA (Recommended daily allowances). Vitamin-C is one of the powerful natural antioxidant which has many essential biological roles to play such as collagen synthesis and wound healing. This vitamin has antiviral and anti-cancer activities, and helps prevent neurodegenerative diseases, arthritis, diabetes, etc by removing oxidant free-radicals from the body. Furthermore, vitamin-C felicitates iron absorption in the food.
Kumquat has good levels of the B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, pyridoxine, folates, and pantothenic acid. These vitamins function as co-factors for metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
Further, kumquats are a modest source of minerals like calciuum, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, selenium, and zinc. Calicum is the chief element required for bone and teeth formation. Copper needed in the production of red blood cells. Iron required for red blood cell formation as well for cellular oxidation.
Selection and storage
Kumquats can be available from November through June. ‘Nagami’ and the ‘Meiwa’ are the two most common varieties of kumquats grown inside the United States. Saint Joseph, Florida is nicknamed as kumquat capital of Florida since Nagami variety kumquats grown in much larger scale there.
While buying, select kumquat fruit that is firm, smooth, brilliant orange color, with attached stem. Avoid unripe, green color fruits and those with surface cuts, bruise, or damage.
Store them at room temperature for about 3-4 days, and inside the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Frozen kumquat puree can be stored for six months or more.
Preparation and serving tips
Kumquats must be allowed to ripen fully on the tree before they picked. They can be enjoyed fresh, added in salads, or candied, and as a garnish.
Wash fresh fruits in a bowl of cool water. Gently pat dry using soft cloth/tissue.
Kumquats taste best if they gently rolled or squeezed before being eaten. This process unifies sugary ingredients in its thin rind with that of underlying tart flesh. Eat kumquats as one would eat grapes or olives with the peel.
Here are some serving tips:
Add fresh kumquat slices to fruit salads or fruit bowls.
Kumquats can be an attractive garnish on a platter.
Kumquats make great marmalade, preserves and candied. It is so because unlike other citrus fruits like Seville-orange, which has bitter tasting peel, kumquats rind is very sweet and, therefore, desirable.
Additionally, pureed kumquats are much sought-after in the preparation of sauce, fruit-concentrates, jams, and jellies.
They also can be used for the preparation of juice, cakes, pie, ice creams…etc.
Ripe kumquat fruit is also used as a marinade and as a garnish in poultry, lamb, and seafood dishes.
As in any other Rutaceae (citrus) category fruits, kumquat fruit too can be consumed safely by pregnant, nursing mothers and children.