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There’s something so appealing about kumquats. Their diminutive size and bright orange color are at once mysterious and enticing. Do you peel them or pop them into your mouth whole? Cook them or consume them in their natural state? After getting caught in this culinary conundrum, I took the autodidact route and learned by doing — or, in this case, by eating.
Kumquats are native to Japan, China, and other parts of Asia, where historically, they have been enjoyed for their special flavor and employed as natural remedies for maladies ranging from sore throats to poor circulation. Both round and oblong varieties exist, but it’s the latter that you’re most likely to find this time of year in in North America.
Besides their novel size, the kumquat’s flavor is also unique. The thin, edible peel is sweet and aromatic, while the seed-filled interior is tangy and sour. The contrast is what gives them their exotic allure. To eat them in their tangy-sweet natural state, take one of the tiny whole fruits and roll it between your palms for a few seconds to activate the essential oils, then pop it into your mouth and enjoy the flavor explosion.
In Asia, the kumquat is often candied and served as a dessert. Fresh kumquats can be prepared in a multitude of creative ways. Try offering them on your next aperitif tray alongside the nuts and olives, slicing and tossing them into your next salad, or even skewering them on toothpicks and plunking them into your favorite cocktail for a colorful kick. This fast, simple recipe for kumquat chutney showcases the tiny citrus’s tangy flavor, and gives lots of room for culinary interpretation.
What to Do with Kumquats