Do you ever wish you could enjoy the nutritional benefits of oranges without the hassle of peeling them? Well here’s some good news: the super-cute and compact kumquat is also a vitamin C powerhouse and you can eat the entire fruit—seeds, rind, and all! Wash and enjoy this tangy and sweet Chinese fruit, either fresh, cooked in desserts, or reduced as a glaze. Aside from vitamin C, kumquats are filled with a ton of other beneficial vitamins and minerals necessary for regulating energy levels, boosting metabolism, promoting eye and skin health, and building immunity. Next time you’re seeking variation in your diet, grab a bunch of these sweet little surprises!
The most common variety of kumquat you’ll find in the US is the slightly oval, bright orange Nagami, which is about an inch long. Most groceries sell them in netted bags, but you may also find them in loose bins like other citrus.
Kumquats are both sweet and tangy; a little more sour than a tangerine. Here’s the trick to enjoying a kumquat: first roll the fruit between your palms to release the pleasantly sharp citrus scent and activate the sweet oils in the rind. Then pop the whole thing in your mouth! The sweetness of the rind combined with the tang of the flesh may seem unusual at first, but the more you chew, the sweeter the fruit becomes.
During winter and early spring months, kumquats are widely available in most US supermarkets. Kumquats are available all year long in some Asian groceries.
Like most citrus fruits, kumquats are at their peak in late fall through early spring.
Look for plump, bright orange kumquats with a shiny rind. Avoid fruit with soft spots or bruises, as it may be overripe or rotting.
When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen.” These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides.
Kumquats do not appear on any EWG produce list, but other citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines, rank between middle and low on the risk list for pesticide exposure. However, if you are concerned about pesticide usage, it is best to choose organic to be on the safe side.
Kumquats will keep on the counter, out of direct sunlight, for a few days. Alternately, keep them for up to two weeks, unwashed in a loose plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper.
Simply wash and eat, skin and all! Some people prefer to remove the stem before eating. Make sure to squeeze the fruit slightly to stimulate the flavors to release more readily.
Slice kumquats in half to add to recipes, or chop to make into chutney or candy.
This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.
A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is involved in the development of rhodopsin, a molecule in the eye that promotes healthy vision. Vitamin A is also responsible for promoting the immune system, cell growth, skin health, and the formation of the heart and lungs as well as other bodily organs.
Alongside sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte essential for conducting electrical reactions in the body. Potassium aids proper muscle function, digestive health, and skeletal contractions.
A mineral that plays a role in producing collagen and keeping the immune system in proper working order, copper is an essential nutrient needed by the body in small amounts. Copper may also fight against free radicals, helping to delay the aging process. Energy production is also one of the many benefits of this important mineral.
B9 (Folate or Folic Acid)
An important nutrient necessary for normal cell division during pregnancy and infancy, folic acid (vitamin B9) plays a powerful role in the developing infant. For adults, vitamin B9 is also essential for proper metabolism, aiding in energy and the production of red blood cells.
In addition to their abundant vitamins and minerals, kumquats are about 80 percent water. Water makes up more than half of a person’s body weight and is vital to a healthy body system. Throughout the day, we constantly lose water (through urinating, sweating, and even breathing). But replenishing the body’s daily water supply doesn’t need to come just from drinking plain water—we can enrich our diet with fruits like the water-filled kumquat!
- Kumquat means “gold orange” in Cantonese.
- Kumquats are the fruit of small evergreen bushes. Each shrub can produce up to 50 fruits in a season.
- Kumquat evergreens are hydrophytic, which means they can also grow in water. When the fruit is ripe, it simply releases from the shrub and floats to shore for harvest.