Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges are renowned all over the world because of their tart flavor and health benefits. However, there is a delicious and nutritious citrus fruit that you likely haven’t heard of before: kumquats.
Kumquats possess either a yellow or orange hue, resembling small, oval oranges with a sweet yet tangy flavor and a hint of bitterness. What sets kumquats apart from citruses, however, is the fact that both the skin and zest are sweet and can be eaten. The rind, flesh and even the pips are edible, although some people prefer to remove them.
When you open a kumquat, you will notice that there are miniature juicy orange-like segments called arils that stick to each other and the peel.
Kumquats are said to be native to the southeastern parts of China, although they can be found in the following areas as well:
- North and South Korea
- Southern Pakistan
- Middle East
- U.S., particularly in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and California
These fruits grow in small-sized evergreen trees that are slow-growing, shrubby and compact, reaching up to 2 to 3 meters in height. The tree’s branches are light green and become angled while young, but they can also either be thornless or possess a few spines. Lastly, the trees bear sweet, fragrant and small white flowers with dark green leaves.
Kumquats’ Amazing Health Benefits
Kumquats are a low-calorie fruit, with 100 grams of fresh kumquats only containing 71 calories. These fruits are rich in nutrients such as:
- Antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E)
- B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, pyridoxine, folates and pantothenic acid)
- Flavonoid antioxidants like carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin and tannins
- Minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc
Don’t forget to eat the kumquat peel as well, since it’s particularly rich in antioxidants and fiber, as well as essential oils like limonene, pinene, a-bergamotene, caryophyllene, a-humulene and a-muurolene. All these nutrients play a vital role in developing some of the health benefits that kumquats have, such as:
- Assisting with collagen synthesis and wound healing
- Possessing anti-viral and anti-cancer activities
- Helping in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, arthritis and diabetes
- Helping with iron absorption from food sources
- Regulating digestive health
- Helping with the elimination of constipation, excess gas, bloating and cramping
- Eliminating and counteracting free radicals from the body
- Functioning as co-factors for metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins and fats
- Boosting the immune system
- Assisting in stimulation of new cell growth
- Helping protect the body against foreign invaders, infections, bacteria and fungi
- Helping optimize insulin and glucose balance in the body
- Nourishing hair and teeth
- Increasing energy levels
- Improving skin health
- Building strong bones
Kumquat Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 100 grams, raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Studies Done on Kumquats
Compared to other citrus fruits, there aren’t many studies that have thoroughly investigated the health benefits of kumquats yet. However, researchers are now beginning to discover the potential that kumquats have when it comes to overall health.
It’s been said that kumquats are able to help with weight loss because they’re both high in water and fiber, low in calories and contain significant amounts of carbohydrates. A study published in PLOS One in April 2014 proved this, wherein mice fed a high-fat diet and subsequently treated using kumquat fruit extract experienced a vast turnaround of their health.1
The researchers conducted both a preventive and therapeutic experiment. The former involved feeding female mice with a normal diet, high-fat diet and high-fat diet with 1 percent extract of kumquats for eight weeks. On the other hand, the therapeutic experiment involved the mice being fed a high-fat diet for three months to induce obesity. After this, the obese mice were divided into two groups where they were either fed with a high-fat or high-fat and fruit extract diet for two weeks.2
The results of the preventive experiment on the mice fed with a high-fat diet showed that the fruit extract was able to help in controlling body weight gain and sizes of white adipocytes (or white adipose tissue that serve as a storehouse of the body’s energy3). Reduced fasting blood glucose, serum total cholesterol, serum low density lipoprotein cholesterol and liver lipid levels were also noticed.4
Meanwhile, for the therapeutic experiment, the fruit extract was shown to have decreased the serum triglyceride (TG), serum TC, serum LDL-c, fasting blood glucose levels and liver lipid contents. Plus, improved glucose and insulin tolerance was also recorded. Another positive was that the fruit extract was able to greatly increase the mRNA expression of a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor5 called PPARα and its target genes.6
Note: although kumquats are generally healthy, make sure to consume them in moderation, as they contain sugar, which can be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
Kumquat Healthy Recipe:
Endive Kumquat Salad
|4 Belgian endives
||10 sprigs parsley
||10 sprigs mint
|2 Tablespoons lemon juice
||1½ Tablespoons olive oil
||¼ to ½ teaspoon of fine sea salt
- Cut off the ends of the endive, cut the trimmed endive into bite size piece and put them in a salad bowl.
- Pinch the leaves off the parsley and mint sprigs. Tear the leaves into smaller pieces and add them to the endive.
- Cut the kumquats into quarters and add them to the salad.
- In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, oil and salt. Drizzle this simple dressing over the salad. Toss the salad to coat everything evenly with the dressing. Serve immediately.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
This recipe makes 4 servings.
(Recipe from About Food)
Tips When Buying Kumquats
If you want to purchase and enjoy kumquats, make sure to do so during the winter, especially during November to June — kumquats are at their peak during this point. Make sure to always pick fruits that are small and firm, with a soft sheen and no discolorations. Ideally, their stems should still be attached. Refrain from buying kumquats that are unripe, green in color and have surface cuts, bruises or damage.
Store the fruits in a perforated bag in your refrigerator, where it can last for up to two weeks. You can also store kumquats in a room temperature area for around three to four days. When you’re ready to use kumquats, wash the fruit and gently pat dry using a soft cloth or tissue. Pull off the stem and chop or slice.
You can also peel the skin of the fruit; however, it can be tricky since it’s thin. As a result, the skin is generally left on because it can provide a contrasting flavor to the flesh that is slightly sour. Kumquats taste extremely delicious on their own when eaten whole, although they can be used as an ingredient for the following dishes too:
- Poultry stuffing
- Fruit salads
- Complementary side dish or glaze for duck and other fatty meats
- Topping for desserts
Prior to eating kumquats, try gently rolling or squeezing the fruit since to make the fruit taste better.
Fun Facts About Kumquats
The scientific name of kumquat is derived from the name of Robert Fortune, a Scottish horticulturist. He was said to be responsible for bringing the fruit to Europe from China in the middle of the 19th century. Although Fortunella margarita is the most well-known type of kumquat, other varieties are grown as well:
- Marumi kumquat (Fortunella japonica): round fruits with a distinct sweet taste and pleasant flavor
- Meiwa kumquat (Fortunella crassifolia): this type of kumquat is also a round, but it is larger than other varieties. It’s also popular in Japan as “ninpo” or “neiha kinkan”
- Hong Kong Wild (Fortunella hindsii): these are the smallest-sized kumquats
Plus, did you know that Saint Joseph, Florida was considered to be the “kumquat capitol” ever since 1895? This is because many varieties of kumquats flourish in the area.
If you’re a big fan of citrus fruits, or sweet yet tart foods in general, then you will certainly love kumquats. These small and oval-shaped fruits are an amazing storehouse of various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can greatly boost your immune system, bone health and energy levels, and even contribute to weight loss, as shown in mice studies.
Kumquats also make for delicious additions to your favorite salads and desserts too, although the natural taste of the fruit is quite compelling enough to entice you to eat them on their own. The next time you see kumquats at your grocery store or farmers market, don’t hesitate to grab a few and let you and your loved ones enjoy what kumquats have to offer.