The Kumquat bush is a very slow grower, but can grow up to 14 feet tall (4 metres.) Its leaves are light green underneath, and a darker glossy green on top. There are very few thorns on the branches.
The bush is cold hardy, but needs good heat to blossom. When it does, the blooms are very fragrant.
The thick skin, which can be golden to reddish-orange, is very sweet, often sweeter than the flesh. Inside, the flesh is somewhat tart, with few or no small, green seeds. It’s not very juicy. You eat a whole Kumquat, skin and all, to get the double sensation of sweet skin and tart flesh.
Round varieties include Hong Kong (chin tou), Marumi and Meiwa. Meiwa is considered amongst the best varieties to eat out of hand.
Nagami, an oval variety, is the one most grown in America. It was introduced into Florida from Japan in 1885. It is usually propagated via grafting onto other rootstock such as orange or grapefruit trees.
Kumquats are now grown all over the world, including America and South America, the Mediterranean and Israel.
Roll pressing down gently before eating to release the juice inside and the oils in the skin. You can eat Kumquats out of hand, add to fresh fruit salads, or bake or cook with them.
The fruit can be stored right on the bushes until needed. Ships and stores well owing to its thick skin.
Kumquats are native to China. They were cultivated in China as early as 1178 AD. By the early 1700s, they were being grown in Japan.
Kumquats were introduced into England in 1846 from China, brought in by Robert Fotune, who was a plant explorer for the Royal Horticultural Society.
Introduced into Florida from Japan in 1855.
Kumquats were classified as a citrus fruit until 1915, when Dr Walter T. Swingle, of the US Department of Agriculture Citrus Breeding Programme at Eustis, Florida, reclassified them into the Fortunella family. They are still popularly thought of as a citrus fruit, though. Doctor Swingle also was involved in Murcott Oranges and Tangelos in Florida.
Kumquat apparently means “gold orange” in Cantonese (Kin Ku).