Kumquat: The Exotic Orange

The kumquat, also known as the cumquat, is quite an interesting fruit.  The kumquat tastes and has a texture very close to that of the orange, but it is much smaller and oval-shaped, approximately the size of an olive.

The kumquat plant is native to Asia, more specifically South Asia and Southeast Asia.  Kumquats have been grown for centuries by people in Japan, Taiwan, and various parts of Southeast Asia.  In fact, the kumquat appears in Chinese literature from almost a thousand years before, in the 12th century!  In 1846, Robert Fortune introduced kumquats to London, and later they were introduced to America.

kumquat

Golden kumquats and halves.

The kumquat fruit comes in quite a few varieties, including the round kumquat, the oval kumquat, and the Jiangsu kumquat.  First off, the round kumquat: these types of kumquats grow on evergreen trees and are golden-yellow colored; they are also quite small and round but are sometimes oval.  Round kumquats are both sweet and sour, and symbolize good luck in many Asian cultures, including Chinese culture.

Oval kumquats are also quite common; they also grow on small evergreen trees but are oval-shaped.  Oval kumquats are native to China, and unlike other citrus fruits, the oval kumquat is more resistant to cold and grows for a less amount of time before it is ripe.

Finally, the Jiangsu kumquat is another variety.  Jiangsu is an area on the eastern side of China.  The Jiangsu kumquat is unique in that it cannot withstand the cold, especially frost.

Nowadays, kumquats are cultivated all over the world, including the southern United States, but especially in Asia.  Cultivated kumquats are much hardier than other citrus fruits, such as oranges, and even though they are very hardy, kumquats produce even larger and sweeter fruits when grown in warm weather.

Though kumquats are delicious when eaten raw, the kumquat is also used in a huge range of foods and drinks.  A common use of the kumquat is to make delicious preserves and marmalade.  Kumquats can also be added to salads for a delicious citrus tang when sliced.  Kumquats are also becoming more and more popular, replacing olives in cocktails.  Finally, kumquat liquors, also known as Koum Quat liqueur, are becoming more and more prominent, having a unique and fresh flavor.

Kumquats provide huge amounts of health benefits; they not only provide an excellent amount of vitamin C, like other citrus fruits, they also provide many oils that are great for your body.  The essential oils found in kumquats can improve all body functions, improve heart health, prevent heart disease, and studies show that they may even lower the risk of certain types of cancer.

Further reading

  1. Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce: A Guide to Easy-to-Make Dishes with Fresh Organic Fruits and Vegetables
  2. Field Guide to Produce: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Fruit and Vegetable at the Market 

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