How To Buy And Eat Kumquats Like A Pro

Citrus fruits originated in Asia, and only a handful of them are commonly found here in the West. Thankfully, modernization has allowed us to develop our diets beyond the oranges and limes that we're accustomed to. Native to southeastern China, kumquats are small, oval-shaped fruits that taste similar to oranges. Derived from the Cantonese words "gam gat," kumquat roughly translates to gold and luck. Although they originated in China, kumquats can be found in Japan, India, and Taiwan. Since they're used to warmer climates, the citrus is also grown in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and California, allowing people in the States to enjoy the fruit.

The size of an olive, kumquats are simultaneously sweet and sour. Their soft, fleshy peel is edible, lending to the fruit's sweet taste. Meanwhile, the juicy insides of the kumquat are where the sourness is found. If you've come across some kumquats at your local grocery store or farmers' market, consider yourself lucky. Depending on where you live, the fruits can be hard to find. You can always check to see if any Asian markets in your area have them in stock if you're unable to track them down.

Like any other fruit, the kumquats you purchase should strike the perfect balance between ripe and firm. A good kumquat should have its vibrant orange color intact, with no marks or soft spots found on the outside. If you don't like bitterness, avoid the ones that have a green tint. 

How to shop for kumquats

They're typically available all year-round, but for the best kumquats, purchase them from November to April when they're in season. Once you've bought a batch of these fruits to try, you can store them  in a fruit bowl where they'll last for a few days. However, you can keep the fruit fresher for longer by refrigerating in an airtight container.

Unlike most other citruses, kumquats can be eaten whole. Since they're small, you can simply place them in your mouth whole or take a few bites. If you choose to eat the peel, which is the sweetest part of the fruit, rinse them well. Kumquats, like all produce, have been passed through many hands on the way to your table, so you can rinse them with distilled vinegar and water to get rid of dirt and pesticides.

To enhance the flavor of the kumquat, rub the skin before you eat. The sweeter part of the kumquat will mix with the tart insides, combining the two into a bright, sweet-and-sour flavor. Although the seeds in kumquats are edible, they can be on the bitter side, so feel free to toss those aside.

Whether fresh or candied, kumquats can be used as a garnish in everything from cakes to cocktails. Decorate with kumquats to add vibrant color and a candied, sour flavor to your desserts. You can also slice them up to top off your salads or yogurt parfaits.