What tastes like an orange, looks like an olive and sounds like something only Dr. Seuss could create?
That would be the one and only kumquat, one of the weirdest – and tastiest – fruits in the world. But, luckily for all of us, just because it’s unique, doesn’t mean there’s not a wide variety of kumquats out there.
Right, so back to that opening riddle.
The kumquat doesn’t taste exactly like an orange – but it’s certainly in the same ballpark, marrying tastes of bitter, tart and sweet.
That’s because the fruits are very much in the same citrus family, with kumquats actually referred to as Citrus japonica, from a scientific standpoint.
And when we say looks like an olive, we mean strictly size-wise. (Kumquats are, actually, quite orange when it comes to hue.) The fruits typically max out at an adorable 1-inch length, and are actually commonly referred to as “little golden gems.”
Still, much like their orange cousins and many of their other citrusy relatives, kumquats can thank the wonderful growing conditions in China for their big agricultural break.
The baby-sized fruits got their start in the modern-day Asian nation, though they’ve been cultivated in neighboring areas of India, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines for nearly a thousand years.
But possibly the best part of kumquats is getting to actually eat them. Aside from their wonderful taste, the fruits are completely ready-to-go off the branch – and you don’t even have to worry about peeling them. Even their relatively-thick skins are edible, and, in fact, usually the sweetest part of the whole fruit.
Thanks, Dr. Seuss! (Err – we mean, Mother Nature!)
There are dozens of kumquat varieties currently grown around the world, but even among all that spicy variety, a few different types of kumquats tend to stick out as perennial favorites, including:
By far the most popular type of kumquat in the United States, this varietal is medium-sized (for a kumquat, anyway), and also sports an oval shape, thick rind, and usually anywhere from two to five seeds inside.
What makes them so likeable, then? Their taste is truly unique, mixing dashes of sweetness, tartness, bitterness and even a touch of spiciness. Plus, all of that flavor tends to burst out in this cultivar’s juicy bite.
These types of kumquats are much smaller, smoother and rounder than their Nagami cousins. And they also tend to have more oil glands, making their patented citrusy scent come off even stronger – and more irresistible.
Still, their sweetness doesn’t quite live up to other varieties, their pulp can sometimes be dry, and these types of kumquats usually include a few more seeds than other cultivars. Bite with caution!
As one of the largest kumquat cultivars, Meiwa are also one of the best for snacking on – and unsurprisingly, then, one of the most popular types of kumquats, especially in Asia.
Aside from its size, the varietal is known for its particularly smooth and bright orange skin, as well as its deeply sweet taste, drier bite, low number of seeds and lovely citrus smell. A winner all-around.
Another kumquat on the larger side of the scale, these types of kumquats are just as likely to be candied in Asia as they are to be eaten raw.
The fruits lend themselves to the process thanks not just to their size but their thinner peels, delightfully round shapes and different type of flavor pallet, which comes off more tart than sweet – making it the perfect partner for a sugary candying treatment.
Still, anyone willing to eat these types of kumquats raw will be treated to a particularly juicy bite.
Like many of the other fruits in its citrus family, kumquats cross-breed quite easily, with a number of natural connections accidentally producing some especially tasty offspring.
Happily, observant humans have been on top of some of these more fruitful matches, going on to cement these half-breeds into the greater kumquat pantheon. And we, for one, are grateful!
Some of the tastiest types of kumquat hybrids include:
When a kumquat and a lime love each other very much… you might end up with a limequat!
This hybrid cultivar mixes some West Indian lime into the Marumi kumquat equation, which results in a strikingly yellow little fruit. Thinly peeled, they can be opened to reveal a scant number of seeds, an especially striking scent, and a taste that marries all the best of both forbearers, ending up something like a sweet, tart and acidic flavor.
This bell-shaped fruit is a cross between the Nagami kumquat and a Dancy mandarin, making it one of the best Chinese mash-ups out there.
Aside from its funny form, the fruit stands out from its kumquat cousins thanks to a deeper orange-red complexion. And its taste actually comes through as more sour than sweet or bitter, making it a particular favorite for tasty hot weather drinks or even a good candidate for making marmalades.
This Philippine-borne varietal combines a kumquat with a particular type of sour mandarin.
The result is a small and nearly perfectly round masterpiece that sports a strangely sensational sour kick.
As one of the juicier types of kumquats, this hybrid cultivar is often used for juicing – especially since it’s one of the only kumquats out there whose skin shouldn’t be eaten. It’s therefore more often found as an ingredient in soups, drinks and even salad dressings than eaten whole.
Still, no matter how you prefer to eat your kumquat, one thing’s for sure: You’re in for a uniquely delicious ride.