What Is A Kumquat?

Explains what a kumquat is and where it is grown. Also details some popular uses for the kumquat fruit in cooking.

Kumquats, also called kinkan, are the fruits that are produced from small evergreen trees that grow to a height of approximately 10 feet. These trees are also known as kumquats. Although kumquat trees are native to, and prevalent in, Asia -- specifically in China and Indochina -- they are also cultivated in Japan and in the United States, in warmer states such as California and Florida. Although many kumquat trees are grown for their sweet, edible fruits, they are also used as ornamental plants because of their attractive, shiny leaves and delicate white flowers that bloom in the summer. Additionally, cut branches of the kumquat tree are used in certain regions as Christmas decorations. Because of the diversity of their use, kumquat trees are becoming popular to grow at home.

The kumquat tree produces small, edible fruits that look similar to oranges. These fruits are extremely juicy and tasty and usually have a sweet outer skin accompanied by a tart, inner flesh. An exception to this is the Meiwa kumquat. This kumquat type has a sweet outer skin and a sweet inner flesh. You can easily identify a kumquat by its bright skin color, which is either orange or yellow. Additionally, kumquats are approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length and are either oval or round in shape depending on the type of kumquat grown. For instance, the Nagami kumquat is oval shaped and has a yellow skin. Meanwhile, the Marumi kumquat has a round shape and an orange colored skin.

You can typically purchase kumquat fruits from December through June at many larger supermarket chains and at some ethnic grocery stores and markets. When purchasing kumquat fruits, make sure that the fruit is firm to your touch and that it does not have any bruises on it. Once purchased, you can store kumquats in your home for up to two weeks provided that they are placed in a plastic container or bag then kept in your refrigerator.

While the most common use for the kumquat fruit is to eat it whole, as is, other popular uses for the fruit include adding pieces of it to fruit salads or to dessert recipes. Kumquats are also used to make jellies, jams and marmalades and are often pickled, whole or preserved in syrups for future use. You might also be able to purchase candied kumquats at some ethnic grocery stores. These treats are quite good and are popular as Chinese confections.

Kumquats are diverse fruits that also offer many nutritional benefits. They are cholesterol, fat, and sodium free and provide a good source of fiber and of the vitamins A and C. Additionally, kumquats contain traces of calcium and iron. For those on a diet, approximately eight kumquats contain 100 calories. Thus, they offer a sweet alternative to other less healthy snack foods.

If you are looking to grow a plant that can serve as both a decorative object and a food source, and you live in a warm climate, you may want to consider the kumquat. It offers an attractive plant and delicious fruit all in one evergreen tree.

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