I realize that calling kumquats “exotic” may be pushing it a little, but I decided to write about them anyway because 1) They’re new to me and 2) They have a delightfully silly name.
Kumquats are a Southeast Asian fruit, and have been cultivated for at least a millennium. Their name is the English approximation of the Chinese (Cantonese) name. They’re commonly grown in
China, Japan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia in general. They were introduced to Europe in 1846, and in the shortly thereafter. Due to their relative frost-hardiness (for a citrus fruit, anyway), they’re now grown across the world, including the U.S. Southeast U.S. This fruit is also becoming popular as a different garnish for martinis, or as a vodka flavor, as well as being made into jams and preserves. The Chinese even use dried, salted kumquats mixed with hot water as a sore throat remedy.
Unlike most other citrus fruits, the rind is edible. Now here’s the weird part—the rind is known for being sweet, while the fruit inside is sour, or tart. Some folks eat the entire thing as a sweet/sour mashup, but others peel it, eat the rind, and discard the fruit itself (!). I can’t think of another fruit example where this is done.
As for my review, I have to give kumquats a “thumbs up.” There are several varieties, but the kind I tried was the oval kumquat, which is about the size of a large olive, and looks like a little orange, with the same orange-yellowish rind when ripe. I found the rind to be more mild than sweetish, but I could taste the nice contrast when I bit into the entire thing at once, rind and fruit. They’re good, kind of a bite-size combo of a orange-lemon type hybrid. I’ll certainly try to get them again.
The kumquats I bought were American grown, specifically in
. I learned that Dade City, Florida is big on them, so much so that they have an annual Kumquat Festival. I enjoyed the packaging, too—billing them as “Nature’s Sweet Tarts,” and with an anthropomorphized kumquat character, complete with stem legs and arms, wearing a chef’s hat, and with a flirty look in her eyes (yes, judging from the eyelashes, the character appeared to be female). Dade City
But enough maturity for today. Let’s turn to the name. It sounds both obscene and humorously awkward. It makes me wonder if the fruit would sell better with a name change. After all, I think the transition from “rapeseed” to “canola” oil proved beneficial. Something for the kumquat industry to consider, I guess.