Kumquats were first cultivated in China. They look like olive-sized oranges and were once considered part of the citrus family. Now they are categorized as Fortunella, a Genus named after Robert Fortune, the horticulturist responsible for introducing the fruit to Europe.
Kumquats have been grown in the United States since the late 1800's, primarily in California and Florida. There are four varieties of kumquats, but typically it is the Nagami or oval variety that are found in Northern California. The growing season lasts from January through April.
How do I buy them? Look for fruit with bright orange skin that are firm to the touch. Avoid kumquats that are blemished or sticky.
How do I eat them? The entire fruit, including the skin, is edible. The thin peel is the sweetest part of the fruit, while the tart flesh will make your mouth pucker. Snack on them whole or cut into thin slices to add to a salad or mix into yogurt.
If the flavor is too sour for your taste, try making candied kumquats to enhance a plain dessert. Cut the fruit in half and remove any seeds. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes in simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water). Once cooled, spoon over vanilla pound cake or ice cream. Save extra syrup to flavor champagne cocktails.