Kumquats: The Tiny Fruit With a Healthy Dose of Personality

Despite their small size, kumquats are strong in taste and are a great source of vitamins.

Kumquats are small in size but rich in taste and nutrients. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user orphanjones.

Though kumquats have a beautiful orange and yellow color, they’re so small you might not expect that the fruit packs an extremely flavorful punch.

If you’ve never tried the tree-growing fruit before, your first experience might be a deal breaker. While the skin is sweet, the pulp is extremely tart. “Some people call them ‘sour’, while stronger critics have even said ‘disgusting,'” says nutritionist Colleen Gerg. “Personally, I think they’re interesting, kind of fun, and given the nutritional benefits, definitely worth giving a try.”

Kumquats are native to China; the name comes from the Cantonese kam kwat, which means “golden orange.” As Gerg said, they contain a goldmine of nutrients, including vitamins C, A, and E. They also offer flavonoid antioxidants, including carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin, and tannins.

Look for kumquats in stores now. There are four different varieties, but the Nagami (oval in shape) and Meiwa (round and larger) kumquats are the most common in the US. If you can find Marumi kumquats, they are the sweetest.

How to choose: “Look for kumquats that are deep orange or yellow and have firm skin,” says Gerg. “Avoid those that seem dried out and have surface cuts, bruising, or soft spots.”

How to store: Kumquats can be stored for three to four days at room temperature, or will keep in the refrigerator, tightly sealed in a plastic bag, up to three weeks.

How they taste: “Unlike what you’d expect from an orange or lemon, the kumquat’s skin is actually the sweeter part and the flesh is what provides the tangy flavor,” Gerg explains. So for the “faint of tart heart,” choose the Meiwa variety. “Those who prefer tartness, however, can pop the Nagami kumquats for a burst of citrusy, tart flavor,” Gerg recommends.

How to eat: To eat a kumquat raw, Gerg says to roll it gently between the thumb and forefinger, melding the thin rind and the tart pulp’s flavors to release essential oils. Then, “simply pop the whole thing into your mouth,” she says. Kumquats are also often used as a garnish. Slice them thinly and add them to salads, marmalades, or desserts. The skin can also be candied and added to meat dishes.

Recipes to try:

Candied Kumquats 

Kumquat Salsa 

Kumquat Shaker Pie 

Kumquat and Pink Pepper Spritzer 

Spicy-Sweet Kumquat Hors d’Oeuvres