For such a tiny fruit, kumquats pack a powerful flavor punch. They are the only citrus that can be eaten in its entirety, both the sweet peel and the tart pulp. Originally native to China, three varieties are now grown commercially in the United States and you can too if you live in Southern California or Florida. So when is kumquat harvest season and how do you harvest kumquats? Read on to learn more.
When Do You Pick Kumquats?
The word “kumquat” originates from the Cantonese kam kwat, which means “golden orange” and is a traditional gift at the Lunar New Year as a symbol of prosperity. Although often referred to as a type of orange and a member of the citrus family, kumquats are actually classified under the genus Fortunella, named after the horticulturalist Robert Fortune, who was responsible for introducing them to Europe in 1846.
Kumquats do beautifully in pots, provided they are well draining, since the plant doesn’t like wet feet. They should be planted in full sun if possible in well-draining soil, kept consistently damp, and fed on a regular basis except during the winter months.
These beautiful trees have dark glossy green leaves punctuated with white blossoms that become the tiny (about the size of a grape) bright orange kumquat fruit. Once you see fruit on the tree, the question is, “when do you pick kumquats?”
When harvesting a kumquat tree, the exact time will vary depending upon the cultivar. Some varieties ripen from November through January and some from mid-December to April. Six varieties are grown throughout the world, but only three, Nagami, Meiwa, and Fukushu, are commonly grown here.
Kumquats are very cold resistant, up to 10 degrees F. (-12 C.), but even so, you should bring them inside or otherwise protect them if the temperature dips. Cold damage done to the tree can result in fruit injury or lack of fruit, eliminating any need for harvesting a kumquat tree.
How to Harvest Kumquats
Within a month, kumquat fruit turns from green to its ripe, brilliant orange. When the tree was first introduced to North America, it was strictly an ornamental specimen. At that time, the fruit was snipped from the tree with the leaves attached to the fruit and used decoratively.
When picking your own kumquats, of course, you can still harvest in this manner if you want to use them as a garnish or decorative touch.
Otherwise, picking kumquats is just a matter of looking for fruit that is firm, brilliantly orange, and plump. Just use a sharp knife or scissors to snip the fruit from the tree.
Once you have harvested your kumquat, the fruit can be used immediately or stored at room temp for a couple of days or in the refrigerator for two weeks. If you have a particularly large crop and you can’t eat or give away enough of them, they make delicious marmalade!