Kumquats, you say? Just try ‘em

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kumquats have been in season all winter and like other citrus they will keep if left on the tree. I have been growing kumquats for years. My tree is in a pot and produces well every year. Put it outside your door and grab one for a treat when you pass. One eats them whole, and when fully ripe they are just the right blend of sweet/tart.

I used to decorate breakfast plates with sliced kumquats when I did my bed and breakfast. Most people were not familiar with them, and they often were just decoration as people were reluctant to eat them. If you like citrus, you will like kumquats.

I once used the tree as a Christmas tree with the fruit as ornaments as well as some added lights and other ornaments. But citrus don’t really like our warm dry indoors for very long. The fruit along with the leaves can be a nice decoration for a mantle or table.

Kumquats contain a good amount of potassium and vitamins A and C.

Kumquats, which look like an olive sized orange, are native to Southeast Asia. They were introduced to Europe by Robert Fortune, a plant hunter for the London Horticultural Society, in 1846 and shortly thereafter came to America.

Kumquats are frost tolerant to 14 degrees being even hardier than satsumas. I have always had mine in a pot to move into the garage if the weather is severe, but they should survive all our winters. If you want to grow citrus, this is a good starter plant. Fertilize like other citrus in February. Citrus in pots should be in well-drained soil. They are not as sensitive to a missed watering as some pot plants.

They are great eaten raw off the tree, but can be sliced and used on salads, in tea, or in cocktails. We used them recently instead of olives in a martini. They are often candied or made into marmalade.

Brandied Kumquats

Place the kumquats in a jar with 2/3 of their volume of sugar. Add brandy to cover, seal tightly, and store in a cool, dark place for one month, turning the jar occasionally. Then, use as a topping for ice cream or yogurt or add to a fruit salad.

Jesse Schenker has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation ‘Rising Star Chef of the Year’ award and his New York eatery, Recette, is up for the foundation’s ‘Best New Restaurant’ title. He was recently on CBS’s “Early Show on Saturday Morning” where he shared the following recipe. I had never thought of roasting kumquats – but then, I am a cook and not a chef.

Wild Arugula Salad

with Ricotta

½ pound (about 10 cups) arugula or baby rocket (lettuce or mixed greens will work as well)

¾ cups hazelnuts, toasted and crushed (I used pine nuts.)

¼ cup fresh mint, washed and picked (It is now greening up in the garden.)

¼ cup lemon vinaigrette (recipe below)

¾ cup roasted kumquats (recipe below)

½ cup ricotta salata or pecorino romano, shaved into long strips with vegetable peeler or crumbled

Lemon Vinaigrette:

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

¾ cups Meyer lemon juice

Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Reserve.


¾ cup kumquats

¾ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Pinch of salt

Drizzle olive oil on kumquats and season with salt. Bake on sheet tray at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Place arugula, nuts, mint, lemon vinaigrette, ricotta salata and kumquats in large bowl. Mix until evenly dressed. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately.