Who would have thought that such a tiny fruit would have such a kick! This month we are taking time to celebrate the kumquat, a devilishly sour fruit that can be devoured in just one bite!
Background and History
The kumquat is the only citrus fruit that is completely edible- from peel to pulp. When eaten together, the peel (sweet) and the pulp (sour) create an immediate awakening of the taste buds.
Kumquats are native to China and originate from the Cantonese word kam kwat meaning “golden orange.” The fruit is a symbol of prosperity and a traditional gift at Lunar New Year.
Although kumquats are considered a type of citrus, they are actually classified under the genus Fortunella. In 1915, kumquats were given their own genus named after the horticulturalist Robert Fortune who introduced the fruit to Europe in 1846.
Types and Characteristics
Today, six varieties of kumquats grow throughout the world. Of these six, only two are commercially available and widely used: the Nagami and the Neiwa.
The Nagami fruit was introduced into Florida from Japan in 1885 and is today’s most common kumquat. The fruit is oval shaped and very sour. Due to the tart flavor, it is best tasting when cooked. The Nagami tree is very prolific and hardy.
The Neiwa fruit is round and sweeter than the Nagami. It is not as commercially available and is often eaten raw and whole.
The fruit grows in clusters and ripen quickly within a month, turning from green to a brilliant orange. When the kumquat was first brought to North America, it was used in ornamental gardens. Therefore, traditional harvesting instructs people to clip the fruits with the leaves attached to the stem. The dark, shiny leaves in contrast to the bright orange fruits are often used for decorations. However, for our purposes, the easiest way to harvest kumquats is by hand. Since the trees are usually small, most of the fruit can be reached from the ground. When harvesting kumquats look for fruit that is plump, firm, brightly colored.
The kumquat has a long shelf life. They can be stored at room temperature for a couple days and in the refrigerator for two weeks. The fruit can be eaten raw and whole, and it can be easily preserved and pickled in sugar syrup or vinegar.
Care and Maintenance
The tree is a slow-growing shrubby tree that can be grown in pots and containers. Plant the tree in full sun in a large pot with good drainage. Kumquats are heavy feeders and need a regular fertilizer program. The tree requires little to no pruning since it grows in a manicured shape on its own.
For more information:http://www.kumquatgrowers.com/ and http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/kumquat.html