Kumquats are citrus fruits that look like tiny, oblong oranges and have a bright sweet-tart flavor. Kumquats are grown throughout Asia and also in North America in California and Florida, where they’re at their peak in midwinter. In Chinese, kumquat means “golden orange.”
Unlike other types of citrus, the peel on these little fruits is edible. They grow in warm-weather climates on small, shrub-like trees that are typically used in landscaping. Native to eastern Asia, they belong to the same family of fruit as oranges, lemons, and limes. Depending on the variety, they can appear as early as November and as late as April.
The health benefits of kumquats include the ability to regulate digestion, boost the immune system, and improve skin, hair, dental, and eye care. Kumquats can reduce your chance of developing diabetes, lower your cholesterol levels, strengthen your bones, and improve nerve health. They have a rich supply of vitamin C and fiber. In fact, you get more fiber in a serving of them than most other fresh fruits.
About 5 whole kumquats contains:
- Calories: 71
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Fiber: 6.5 grams
- Vitamin A: 6% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 73% of the RDI
- Calcium: 6% of the RDI
- Manganese: 7% of the RDI
Kumquats also supply smaller amounts of several B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc.
The edible seeds and the peel of kumquats provide a small amount of omega-3 fats.
Kumquats are rich in plant compounds, including flavonoids, phytosterols and essential oils. There are higher amounts of flavonoids in the kumquat’s edible peel than in the pulp. Some of the fruit’s flavonoids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These may help protect against heart disease and cancer.
The phytosterols in kumquats have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol, meaning that they can help block the absorption of cholesterol in your body.
The essential oils in kumquats leave a scent on your hands and in the air. The most prominent antioxidant is limonene.
In folk medicine in some Asian countries, the kumquat has been used to treat colds, coughs and other inflammation of the respiratory tract.
Kumquats are a super source of immune-supportive vitamin C. Additionally, some of the plant compounds in kumquats may also help bolster your immune system. Animal and test-tube studies suggest that kumquat plant compounds may help activate immune cells called natural killer cells. Natural killer cells help defend you from infections. They have also been shown to destroy tumor cells.
One compound in kumquats that helps stimulate natural killer cells is a carotenoid called beta-cryptoxanthin. A pooled analysis of seven large observational studies found that people with the highest intake of beta-cryptoxanthin had a 24% lower risk of lung cancer.
The plant compounds in kumquats may help fight obesity and associated diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Extract from the skins of kumquats is especially rich in the flavonoids neocriocitin and poncirin. Research suggests that the flavonoid poncirin may play a role in fat cell regulation.
The fiber ion kumquats helps to keep your gastrointestinal tract moving and regulates your digestion. It can help to eliminate constipation, excess gas, bloating, and cramping and increase the efficiency of your nutrient uptake. Fiber protects against inflammatory bowel disease.
How to Buy
When selecting kumquats, give them a gentle squeeze to find ones that are plump and firm. Choose fruits that are orange in color, not green (which could mean they’re unripe). Check for soft spots or discolored skin -the edible skin is more delicate and tender than that of other citrus fruits and therefore more susceptible to damage. They will not have much of an aroma, but their peels should look shiny and taut. Look for organically grown kumquats, and make sure to rinse them clean and pat them dry.
How to Store
Store kumquats at room temperature for a couple of days.
They can be refrigerate the fruits for up to two weeks.
If you have kumquats that you can’t eat before they go bad, consider making a purée out of them and store in your freezer.
How to Cook
This is one type of citrus fruit you not peel. Kumquats are great just as they are, skin and all. The peel is actually a bit sweeter than the pulp, so eating them whole gives them a balanced flavor.
Besides eating them whole, other uses for kumquats include:
- Chutneys, marinades and sauces
- Marmalades, jams and jellies
- Sliced in salads (fruit or leafy green)
- Sliced in sandwiches
- Added to stuffing
- Baked into breads
- Baked into desserts such as cake, pie or cookies
- Puréed or sliced for dessert toppings
- Tiny dessert cups (when halved and scooped out)
- Sliced and steeped in boiling water for tea