Uncover the secrets of the kumquat: The tiny citrus with a big punch!
Ever popped a fruit into your mouth expecting a mild taste, only to be blown away by a burst of flavor? That’s the kumquat for you! Think of it as a grape-sized sensation loaded with sweet-tart citrus magic.
Ever wondered about its name? In Chinese, ‘kumquat’ translates to “golden orange.”
While their roots trace back to China, these golden globes have since traveled the world. Today, they’ve found new homes in warmer pockets of the globe, especially sunny states like Florida and California.
Here’s a fun twist: unlike its citrusy cousins, the kumquat’s peel is delightfully sweet, meant to be eaten! Meanwhile, its juicy center tantalizes with tartness.
Dive into this article to unearth kumquats’ nutritional gold and health perks, along with some savvy ways to savor them.
Kumquats: Tiny powerhouses of nutrition!
Ever wondered which small fruit packs a big nutritional kick? Enter kumquats! These petite delights are bursting with vitamin C and are impressively fiber-rich. Surprisingly, they outshine many other fruits when it comes to fiber content.
For a quick glance, here’s what a 100-gram serving (or about 5 juicy kumquats) offers you:
- Calories: 71
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Fiber: 6.5 grams
- Vitamin A: Meets 6% of your daily needs
- Vitamin C: Fulfills a massive 73% of your daily needs
- Calcium: Covers 6% of your daily intake
- Manganese: Provides 7% of what you need daily
That’s not all; kumquats have trace amounts of several B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and zinc. And guess what? Even the edible seeds and the zesty peel contribute a bit of omega-3 fats.
Water lovers, rejoice! Around 80% of a kumquat’s weight is purely hydrating water. Their rich water and fiber content make them super satisfying and incredibly low in calories. Looking for a weight-friendly snack? Kumquats have got you covered.
Summary: Kumquats are your go-to for a massive vitamin C boost. Their high fiber and water content make them a top pick for those aiming for weight loss.
Kumquats are high in antioxidants and other plant compounds
Kumquats are rich in plant compounds, including flavonoids, phytosterols, and essential oils.
There are higher amounts of flavonoids in the kumquat’s edible peel than in the pulp.
Some of the fruit’s flavonoids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These may help protect against heart disease and cancer.
The phytosterols in kumquats have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol, which can help block cholesterol absorption in your body. This may help lower your blood cholesterol.
The essential oils in kumquats leave a scent on your hands and in the air. The most prominent one is limonene, which has antioxidant actions in your body.
When consumed in whole food, such as kumquats, the different flavonoids, phytosterols, and essential oils are thought to interact and have synergistic beneficial effects.
Summary: Because kumquat peels are edible, you can tap into their rich reservoirs of plant compounds. These have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering properties.
Kumquats support healthy immune function
In folk medicine in some Asian countries, the kumquat has been used to treat colds, coughs, and other respiratory tract inflammation.
Modern science shows that certain compounds in kumquats support your immune system.
Kumquats are a super source of immune-supportive vitamin C. Some of the plant compounds in kumquats may also help bolster your immune system.
Animal and test-tube studies suggest that kumquat plant compounds may help activate immune cells called natural killer cells.
Natural killer cells help defend you from infections. They have also been shown to destroy tumor cells.
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One compound in kumquats that helps stimulate natural killer cells is a carotenoid called beta-cryptoxanthin.
A pooled analysis of seven extensive observational studies found that people with the highest beta-cryptoxanthin intake had a 24% lower risk of lung cancer. However, the research was not able to prove cause and effect.
Summary: The vitamin C and plant compounds in kumquats help bolster the immune system to fight infections and may help reduce your risk of certain cancers.
Kumquats may help combat obesity and related disorders
The plant compounds in kumquats may help fight obesity and associated diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Scientists are testing this in mice using extracts from kumquat peels. This extract is especially rich in the flavonoids neocriocitin and poncirin.
In a preliminary study, normal-weight mice fed a high-fat diet for eight weeks gained significantly more weight than mice given a high-fat diet, kumquat extract, or low-fat control diet. All groups consumed about the same amount of calories.
Further analysis showed that the kumquat extract helped minimize growth in fat cell size. Previous research suggests that the flavonoid poncirin may play a role in this fat cell regulation.
In part two of the same study, obese mice fed a high-fat diet for two weeks had a 12% increase in body weight. But, obese mice fed a high-fat diet plus kumquat extract maintained their weight. Both groups consumed about the same amount of calories.
In both parts of the study, kumquat extract also helped lower fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides.
More research is needed, including research on people. Regardless, since kumquats can be eaten peel and all, you can easily tap into whatever benefits they may carry.
Summary: Preliminary research suggests the plant compounds in kumquat peels may help prevent weight gain and promote healthier blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
How to eat kumquats
Kumquats are best eaten whole — unpeeled. Their sweet flavor actually comes from the peel, while their juice is tart.
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The only caveat is that if you’re allergic to the peel of common citrus fruits, you may need to pass up kumquats.
If the tart juice turns you off, you can squeeze it out before eating the fruit. Just cut or bite off one end of the fruit and squeeze.
However, many people suggest popping the whole fruit into your mouth and biting in, which mixes the sweet and tart flavors.
It may also help gently roll the fruit between your fingers before eating. This helps release the essential oils in the peel and mixes the sweet peel and tart flesh flavors.
In addition, chew kumquats well. The longer you chew them, the sweeter the flavor.
If you want to soften the peel before eating the fruits, you can plunge them into boiling water for about 20 seconds and then rinse them under cold water. This isn’t necessary, though.
As for the kumquat seeds, you can either eat them (although bitter), spit them out or pick them out if you cut the fruit.
Summary: Kumquats are a fuss-free fruit. Just wash them and pop them into your mouth to meld the sweet peel and tart flesh flavors.
Tips for buying and using kumquats
Kumquats grown in the United States are in season from November through June, but availability may vary depending on where you live.
You may miss out if you wait until the end of the season to look for them.
Check for kumquats in supermarkets, gourmet food stores, and Asian grocery stores. If you live in a state where the fruits are grown, you also may find them at farmers’ markets.
The most common variety sold in the United States is the Nagami, which has an oval shape. The Meiwa variety is also popular and is round and a bit sweeter.
Opt for organic kumquats if you can find and afford them since you typically eat the peel. If organic isn’t available, wash them well before eating as they may have pesticide residues.
When selecting kumquats, give them a gentle squeeze to find plump and firm ones. Choose fruits that are orange in color, not green (which could mean they’re unripe). Pass up any with soft spots or discolored skin.
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Once you get them home, refrigerate the fruits for up to two weeks. If you store them on your countertop, they’ll only last a few days.
If you have kumquats you can’t eat before they go bad, consider making a purée out of them and storing it in your freezer.
Besides eating them whole, other uses for kumquats include:
- Chutneys, marinades, and sauces for meat, chicken, or fish
- Marmalades, jams and jellies
- Sliced in salads (fruit or leafy green)
- Sliced in sandwiches
- Added to stuffing
- Baked into bread
- Baked into desserts such as cake, pie, or cookies
- Puréed or sliced for dessert toppings
- Tiny dessert cups (when halved and scooped out)
- Sliced and steeped in boiling water for tea
Recipes for these ideas can be found online. You can also buy ready-made kumquat jams, jellies, sauces, and dried kumquat slices.
Summary: Check stores for kumquats around November through June. Eat them out of hand, slice them into salads, or use them to make sauces, jellies, and baked goods.
The kumquat has much more to offer than just a spunky name.
One of the most unusual things about these bite-size orbs is that you eat the peel, which is the sweet part of the fruit. This makes them an easy grab-and-go snack.
Because you eat the peel, you can tap into the rich stores of antioxidants and other plant compounds found there.
The vitamin C and plant compounds in kumquats can help support your immune system. Some of these may help protect against obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers, though more human research is needed.
If you haven’t yet tried kumquats, look for them starting around November and into the next several months. They just might become one of your new favorite fruits.