Despite being a devilishly tasty treat, the humble kumquat isn’t exactly a staple of the average fruit bowl.
We in the western world tend to fill our kitchen with bananas, apples, pears, tangerines, oranges, grapes, and maybe even melon, but for whatever reason, the kumquat is treated as a somewhat “fringe” fruit that we hear about from time to time, but rarely enjoy.
In light of this, when we do get an opportunity to give this low-key fruit a taste, we’re not entirely sure how to eat it.
Being that it essentially looks like an olive wearing an orange costume, it’s no surprise that many a snacker is stopped in their toothy tracks when they come up against the kumquat.
Not to worry though, fruit lover — I’m going to be your kumquat counselor and guide you through your very first (and definitely not last) taste of this wonderful fruit. Let’s get to it!
What Exactly Is A Kumquat?
Kumquats (sometimes spelled cumquats) are a southeast Asian fruit in the citrus family grown on, you’ve guessed it… kumquat trees.
They have a rounded oblong shape, and their English name is derived from the Cantonese for “Golden Orange”.
A staple of Asian cuisine for centuries, this little fruit didn’t make its way to Europe and the Americas until the mid 1800s.
The kumquat tree prefers warmer climates, as the temperate weather aids in the production of larger, sweeter fruit, which is why they’re a popular choice across North America and in states such as Florida and California.
Having said that, this magnificent tree does perfectly well in colder climates too — it’s one tough cookie!
What Do Kumquats Taste Like?
You should feel a sense of familiarity when you chow down on your first kumquat, as they pop with a citrusy blast similar to that of an orange or lemon.
You’ll pick up a faint sweetness, and a mouthful of tang and sourness.
They can be a bit of a shock to the system when you first try them, but if you eat them correctly, you can tame some of the underlying bitterness and enjoy the kumquat at its best.
So, without further ado, let’s prepare this little orange delight for consumption!
How Do You Prepare A Kumquat: A Step-By-Step Guide
With a normal orange, tangerine, or apricot, your first port of call is of course to peel the fruit so you can reach the juicy core, but interestingly, this might be a mistake when preparing a kumquat for your lunch.
Here’s how it’s done.
Step 1. Resist The Urge To Peel The Kumquat
Typically, kumquats are eaten whole — skin and all!
Now, I know that chewing on leathery, pithy orange skin doesn’t sound all that appetizing, but kumquat skin really isn’t like that.
In fact, the skin is the sweetest part of this petite fruit, so you’d be cranking up the sour factor significantly by removing it, which probably isn’t something you want on your first fruity rodeo.
Of course, if the skin has any severe blemishes, rather than letting the whole fruit go to waste, feel free to remove it and enjoy it the naked way.
Step 2. Wash Your Kumquat
Okay, so being that we’re leaving our hypothetical kumquat in its shell that’s been exposed to god knows what on its way to your fruit bowl, it’s critical that we give it a good rinse first!
Many people forget about this part of fruit and vegetable preparation, but it’s incredibly important, as the outer layer of our produce can be contaminated by countless harmful germs.
You don’t need to give your kumquat a full-blown bubble bath or anything like that; just rinse it under cold running water for a few moments, rubbing the skin as you go.
Step 3. Dry Your Kumquat
No one wants a soggy kumquat on their first taste, so grab a paper towel and soak up any excess moisture lingering on the skin.
Step 4. Tenderize Your Kumquat
Before you shove that little orange olive into your chomper and gobble it down, it’s best to tenderize it by rolling it between your hands as if you’re making a ball out of playdough.
This will soften the firm skin and release a sweet aroma that pleasantly detracts from the sharp tang of the fruit.
Step 5. What To Do With The Seeds?
The seeds of a kumquat are fully edible, and in fact, quite tasty, so most would choose to leave them in, but if you’re not into it or fear a kumquat tree might start growing in your guts, simply cut the fruit in half and remove them.
Step 6. Chow Down!
That’s right, friend — the time has finally come to chomp on your very first kumquat! How exciting.
Fantastic Varieties And How To Eat Them
There are four main varieties of kumquat. Two are known as the Negami and the Meiwa.
This is your typical kumquat tree cultivated all over the US. It’s a hardy evergreen plant that doesn’t need all that much care, and its fruits (proceeding sweet-smelling white blooms), are exceedingly tart.
The Meiwa kumquat isn’t quite as common over here in the States, but is fairly ubiquitous across China and Japan.
Not only is it considered a slightly sweeter variant, it is also decidedly rounder than its far-reaching oblong cousin.
The other two variants are the product of hybridization:
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this is a cross between a lime and a kumquat.
No prizes for guessing the lineage of this fruit… It’s of course a cross between a lemon and a kumquat.
The good news is that even though there are multiple types of kumquat, you won’t have to learn multiple preparation methods, as they’re all best when eaten whole!
If you haven’t gobbled it up already, by now you should be good and ready to taste kumquat at its finest. Remember to give it a good rinse beforehand and tenderize it a little too.
I have nothing left to teach you here, so what are you waiting for? Give this wonderful little fruit a try!