“C” for Cumquat
Updated: May 25
Winter vitamin C means citrus and here are few words about this interesting tiny variety.
Spelled with a “C” in Australia instead of a “K”, they are the cutest little citrus I’ve seen! Looking like miniature oranges, the cumquats (or kumquats), measuring around 3 cm diameter are a very interesting fruit. They are native to China and like most citrus originating from Asia, many varieties are cultivated in North America and also here in Australia. Citrus cannot be grown in the cool climate in Québec so we mainly find the California and Florida varieties at the supermarket. I’ve never noticed these little ones before living downunder. The most popular little citrus varieties we always buy for snacking in winter are the clementine and they are similar, but smaller, to tangerines. I’ve discovered the cumquats in Australia as my mother-in-law has a big cumquat tree in her yard with the round variety. These are very acidic so they aren’t very good to eat fresh but they can be used, and cooked, like lemons. Their unique taste makes the best marmalades! For those who prefer them bitter (opposed to sweet) with thinner peels, they are just perfect.
GROWING & COOKING TIPS
Cumquats are a bit of hard work to prepare and tough on the old fingers, but worth the trouble. I did few cooking experiments trying some preserving recipes like pickled, candied and cordial. I have not made marmalade myself but have helped to prepare it with my mother-in-law (owner and maker of the Clearstream Farm Products). This evergreen tree produces around 50 kg fruit per winter. It is cold hardy, however heavy frost can burn fruit at the top of the tree. Care of a backyard tree is the same as any citrus and requires feeding plus pest and disease control while establishing. In a cold climate zone it is best to plant near a north-facing brick wall that provides more heat from the sun in winter, and cover with frost cloth when fruiting. It can also be planted in a pot and moved under a terrace or balcony cover during extreme weather periods (to protect from frost and heat waves). A cumquat tree can be grown for the fruits but also for ornamental purpose. I have seen and tasted the Nagami oval variety once. That one can be eaten fresh, the peel as well. Something that will be soon added to my backyard food forest in progress!
The cumquat in various uses • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019-2020
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