What Are Kumquats?

Get the scoop on these tiny, flavorful fruits.

Photo: Meredith

Beyond their playful name and orange-like appearance, people often overlook the delicious and perfectly snackable kumquat. So, if you've been missing out on this citrus variety, here's everything you need to know about the fruit that is tiny in everything except for flavor.

What Are Kumquats?

A kumquat is a small citrus fruit that looks like a mini orange. They are native to Southeast Asia, but are now grown across Asia and the U.S.

While they are in the same family as the orange, and the word kumquat translates to "golden orange" in Cantonese, kumquats differ in size, shape, and peel. A kumquat is just a little bit bigger than an olive or grape and is typically oval and oblong. They are also 100% edible, meaning you can eat the peel and the seeds.

It's believed the first kumquats were grown in China during the 12th century, but they didn't make it to the U.S. until the mid-1800s. Today, they are grown in warm climates, like California and Florida, on small shrub-like trees.

What Do Kumquats Taste Like?

Kumquats taste citrusy, almost like an orange. They're slightly sweet, but the most prominent flavors are tart and tangy. The peel is actually the sweetest part of the kumquat, while the flesh is quite sour — but the level of sourness depends on the variety of kumquat you choose.

Varieties of Kumquats

There are multiple varieties of kumquats, with the three most popular being: Nagami, Marumi, and Meiwa.

Nagami Kumquats

The Nagami kumquat is the most commonly grown kumquat in the U.S. It's more oval-shaped and oblong, and has a tarter flavor than other kumquats.

Marumi Kumquats

The Marumi kumquat is round and oftentimes larger than other kumquats. These fruits are sweeter and juicier than other varieties.

Meiwa Kumquats

The Meiwa kumquat is round and much sweeter than other kumquat varieties. It's most popular in China and Japan, but you can still find Meiwa kumquats in the U.S.

Kumquat Benefits

Not only are kumquats tasty, but they're good for you too. Here's a breakdown of the kumquat's most important nutritional benefits:

  • Vitamin-rich: Kumquats are filled with both vitamin C and vitamin A. Vitamin C boosts your immune system, while vitamin A helps your body in other areas, like vision, and growth.
  • High in antioxidants: The kumquat's peel is high in antioxidants, which may help protect against heart disease and cancer. So, eat the whole kumquat to get the most benefits.
  • High in fiber: Kumquats are a fiber-rich food. Eating kumquats may help the digestive process and keep your bowel movements regular. Additionally, the fiber will keep you full for longer, making them an excellent healthy snacking option.

When Are Kumquats In Season?

Kumquats are in season from November to April, but the best time to buy them is in December and January.

Look for kumquats that have bright skin and feel firm and heavy for their size. Avoid fruits with bruises or blemishes, or those that are green in color.

Where to Buy Kumquats

Kumquats can be difficult to find depending on where you live. Because they are grown in warm climates and aren't as popular compared to other citrus fruits, you might not be able to find them in a standard supermarket.

Your best bet for finding kumquats is at farmers' markets, specialty grocery stores, and Asian supermarkets.

How to Store Kumquats

If you like to leave your citrus fruits out at room temperature, we have some bad news when it comes to kumquats. A kumquat will only last a few days in a paper bag on the counter because its thin peel makes it more vulnerable than most citrus fruits.

If you want to store them for longer, kumquats will last about a week in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

How to Use Kumquats

Kumquats are most commonly eaten as-is. You can choose to peel them or eat them whole, but remember to wash the skin first if you plan to eat the peel. In addition to snacking on kumquats out of hand, you can also use them to make marmalades, salads, breads, cakes, and much more. Or they can be candied, pickled, or pureed as well.

Ready to try a kumquat recipe? Take a look at some of our favorites:


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