If you’ve never heard of or tried a kumquat before, you’re definitely missing out. A unique type of citrus fruit, kumquats are becoming more and more popular.
The round kumquat, or Fortunella japonica, is a specific type of kumquat that’s a little bit different from its more common relatives.
Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating kumquat and what makes it so special.
Where the Round Kumquat Comes From
While most kumquat species are native to China, it is believed that the round kumquat originates in Japan. In 1784, the first full written description of this kumquat appeared and it was brought to the United States in 1885 by Royal Palm Nurseries in Florida.
Fun fact: in Chinese culture, the round kumquat is believed to bring good luck!
What is a Round Kumquat?
In general, kumquats are small citrus fruits, often oval-shaped, that look a bit like miniature oranges. As the name suggests, the round kumquat, also known as the Marumi or Morgani kumquat, has a more circular shape than others.
This type of kumquat is very small, only about an inch wide, with a smooth, yellow-orange rind. This particular kumquat has a thinner and sweeter peel than other varieties.
Inside, you’ll find somewhere between four and seven segments, which is a wider range than most kumquats. There are typically one to three seeds that tend to be smaller than other types of kumquat.
The round kumquat tree is usually thornier and has smaller leaves, and is also more cold hardy than its cousins.
The season to harvest kumquats is between October and January, so that’s the best time to start to keep an eye out for them in grocery stores near you.
The round kumquat has been hybridized, possibly naturally, with the Nagami or oval variety (one of the most common kumquats) to create the Meiwa kumquat.
The Flavor of the Round Kumquat
Kumquats generally have a bright, sweet, and sour orange-like flavor and are very juicy. The round kumquat in particular has a sweeter peel than others, and the flesh inside is known for being tart. As you chew, the sweet oils in the skin are released and you’ll notice more and more sweetness emerge.
How to Use Round Kumquats
While you may not see kumquats for sale everywhere, they’re actually very versatile and easy to use.
Before you bother with getting too fancy, just pop one right in your mouth whole. No need to peel or remove the seeds; the round kumquat is the perfect snack just as it is.
Making Kumquat Appealing to Kids
Since they have a similar flavor, if you have kids who love oranges and clementines, give them a round kumquat to try. If they don’t like the tart flavor, you can squeeze out the more sour insides and give them just the peel or roll them around to release the oils in the much sweeter rind.
In recipes, you can often substitute kumquats for other types of citrus. It’s easy to make jellies, jams, and marmalades, whip up unusual cocktails like this one (just substitute the lemons for kumquats), or candy them for for an even sweeter treat.
Go the more classic route with kumquat tarts, pies, and other pastries, toss into a salad, or squeeze into a vinaigrette.
Make a truly unique stir fry sauce that gets its sweetness and tang from round kumquats, cube and add to your favorite salsa recipe, or use in place of lemons on a roast chicken. You can really do anything you want with delicious results! If you need more inspiration, here are 10 kumquat recipes to try.
Health Benefits of the Round Kumquat
Not only are round kumquats delicious, but they also boast a number of health benefits similar to other citrus fruits. They’re high in vitamins C and A, fiber, and antioxidants.
If you’re looking for a snack that’s low fat and low sodium, these kumquats fit the bill. You can enjoy them guilt free with almost any meal!
Where to Find Round Kumquat Fruit
Even though they aren’t the most commonplace fruit out there, you might be surprised that you can find kumquats for sale in your area. Check your local grocery stores (sometimes you can request that they order items for you)–they may have been there the whole time and you just never noticed.
Specialty Asian markets also frequently carry kumquats in season.
Can I Grow My Own Round Kumquats?
You can absolutely grow your very own round kumquats! They’re actually relatively easy to care for. It is possible to grow them from seed, but you’ll have a greater chance of success if you go with a started plant instead.
Planting Your Kumquat Tree
While kumquats will do best in warmer climates, such as USDA zones 9 and 10, the round kumquat is especially cold hardy and can thrive in temperatures down to 18 degrees Fahrenheit.
One of the things that makes growing these kumquats simple is that they’re self-pollinating, which means you can keep just one and it will still bear fruit. Kumquat plants will put out white, sweet-smelling blooms before fruiting.
In-ground vs. Container
The round kumquat plant is a slow-growing evergreen and will likely reach about 9 feet tall, depending on how you decide to plant it. They can be grown outdoors or in a pot, and many varieties of kumquat have been “dwarfed”, or bred to stay smaller. If you do decide to grow your kumquat tree in a pot, be sure the pot is large so that the roots have plenty of space as they are prone to root rot.
It’s also ideal to have your container up off the floor or ground to allow for air circulation, and you should also know that it will be more sensitive to the cold; if you plan to grow in a pot outside, you may want to bring it inside for the winter if you live in an area where temperatures drop for the season.
What to Know About Soil
The kumquat can use almost any kind of soil as long as it has adequate drainage, so if you do opt to grow yours in a container, choose one with holes in the bottom and cover the holes with a screen to keep all the soil in. A potted kumquat plant will require more frequent watering than one planted in the ground.
Caring for Your Kumquat Tree
They also don’t require pruning, but if you do decide to prune for aesthetics or better fruit production, be sure to do so after harvesting your kumquats. They like lots of sunlight, so if you’re growing indoors you’ll want to choose a spot that gets a lot of sun or use grow lights.
In the first year it’s especially important to water regularly and keep the soil moist to give your kumquat tree the best chance at growing strong and resilient.
If you don’t care as much about the fruit, kumquats can be grown as ornamental plants to keep in your home or on your property. Even without the orange fruits, they make an attractive addition to your decor and landscaping with their small green leaves.
Where to Buy a Round Kumquat Tree
Round kumquats specifically are more expensive to harvest, which means there aren’t a ton of commercial growers. If you’re having trouble finding them near you, try growing a round kumquat tree from Four Winds — or grow a tree from seed — to get your own supply from your home or backyard.
There’s So Much to Love About Round Kumquats!
These kumquats are a unique and delicious fruit, and there are so many ways to enjoy them in the kitchen. They’re also fun and fairly simple to grow.
Excited for more kumquat content? Check out our kumquat trees page to learn more about this funky little citrus!
- About the Author
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Hope Schwartz-Leeper is an avid reader, writer, and lover of all things nature with degrees in English and Philosophy.
Born and raised in the Northeast, Hope has always had an affinity for spending time outside. Growing up and attending college in New York, then living on Cape Cod and finally settling in Rhode Island has given her plenty of experience with the climate and environment of these areas.
She loves growing her own food and plants and is always trying to grow something new. She’s hoping her apple trees will one day bear fruit, but for now she’s excited about anything that comes from the garden.