I remember seeing kumquats for the first time on Food Network. They were dipping them in hot sugar with long skewers and letting the sugar form long strands off of the kumquat to create a garnish. I fell in love with them, and couldn't wait to get my hands on them.
My family has always loved citrus. Enough to have a lemon tree as our Christmas tree one year that could be replanted and produce zesty gifts each year after. Sometimes our presents from our parents were citrus. A Beares lime tree, Ringpur lime, and a Kumquat tree. Unlike regular Christmas presents, which you only have to wait a couple of weeks to open, I had to wait 2 years before I could even get a sample of my Christmas Kumquats. Waiting for them to ripen was torture. But I am telling you, the reward was greater in the end and I know I will get the same present every year.
These little golden beauties have been native to Japan and long cultivated since the 12th century in Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and South East Asia. Kumquats were discovered in 1846 by Robert Fortune, who was a collector for the London Horticulture. Soon after their discovery, Kumquats were brought to North America. The kumquats are classified in the genus “Fortunella”, named after Robert Fortune, and are part of the orange, lemon, and grapefruit family.
With their irresistible, edible, sweet skin and prettiness, kumquats can add a new level of sophistication to your dish. Use them as a garnish, infused, or eaten raw. They make a perfect Martini garnish. Replace the olive with a kumquat and the oils will infuse into the alcohol. You can make your own infused sugar or salt easily by dropping a couple of kumquats into a jar of either. The oils will seep out and infuse the sugar or salt. Check in about a week. Once the fruit is brown or dried up, you can toss it out. Your infused sugar or salt will last for a very long time. Fresh kumquats are a great addition to any salad. They brighten up the dish and add a little zing to your palate.
I recently started thinking about kumquats again when they were in my CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) box from Del Rio Botanical in West Sacramento. These boxes of edible treasure and endless possibilities are harvested in the morning for same day delivery once a week. The box comes with a wonderful letter updating us on the farm and providing great tips and information on using the produce. The letter this week suggested making a jam or spread out of the kumquats, however, wanting to make something a little more versatile for myself, I candied them. I will probably use my candied kumquats as an ice cream topping, in my scone mix, added to my muffin batter, or as a glaze on baked wild salmon. I encourage you to give kumquats a place in your kitchen, so you can fall in love with them too.