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Kumquats and Marmalade

Kumquats and Marmalade

Even if you’re not enamored with kumquats you might like kumquat marmalade. I first had it on a cheese board at Tender Greens Point Loma about five years ago. The bright flavor, sweet and tart juxtaposed and a jewel-toned color prompted a tree planting and launched a recipe search.

Nagami kumquats

Nagami kumquats

But here’s the backstory on kumquats.

Kumquats are native to China where they have been grown since the 12th century. They arrived in America from Japan around 1855, primarily for ornamental use. The foodways of Southeast Asia incorporate kumquats and they are grown there commercially. Here, California and Florida provide the best growing conditions.

Kumquats are entirely edible. A few seeds are easily removed. Rub the kumquat between your hands to release the essential oils. Pop in your mouth for a flavor blast of sweet and tart or cut crosswise or in quarters. The thin skin provides the sweetness. Recently, I sliced the fruit into very thin circles for young children. They loved the flavor surprise.

Kumquats are entirely edible. A few seeds are easily removed. Rub the kumquat between your hands to release the essential oils. Pop in your mouth for a flavor blast of sweet and tart or cut crosswise or in quarters. The thin skin provides the sweetness. Recently, I sliced the fruit into very thin circles for young children. They loved the flavor surprise.

The two most common kumquat varieties are Nagami and Meiwa. The latter is round and sweeter. Botanically, they are not citrus but of the genus Fortunella. Nagami is more suited for commercial production and is more widely available. The kumquat season is short and the fruit can be pricey. Best to find a friend who grows them. If you’re in San Diego, check Specialty Produce for availability. January and February are good months to look for kumquats.

Kumquats in a winter garden salad with calendula petals, celery, broccoli, arugula and lettuce.

Kumquats in a winter garden salad with calendula petals, celery, broccoli, arugula and lettuce.

Specialty Produce offers suggestions for using in sweet and savory preparations. You’ll also find links to 19 kumquat recipes here and a list of 29 restaurants in the San Diego area currently purchasing kumquats.

As Kumquats are entirely edible, they are a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory preparations. Slice Kumquats into coins and cook with sugar and water until candied, then use to top pound cake or ice cream. Add sliced Kumquats to pomegranate juice, champagne and club soda for punch. Poach Kumquat slices in sugar and water, then layer over a tart shell baked with almond and butter filling, topped with kumquat syrup. Cook Kumquat and onion slices until softened, then add lamb breasts, braising liquid and cook tagine until meat is done, then serve over couscous. Dice Kumquats and mix with diced avocado, red onion, cilantro and lime for a fresh salsa. 

Lavender kumquat shrub from  The Bojon Gourmet

Lavender kumquat shrub from The Bojon Gourmet

I can’t wait to try a lavender kumquat shrub recipe found on the Specialty Produce recipe list. A beverage with these two exotic food flavors is dreamy.

And now for kumquat marmalade.

Kumquats prepped for marmalade. Seeds are easily removed with the tip of a knife.

Kumquats prepped for marmalade. Seeds are easily removed with the tip of a knife.

I searched the internet for kumquat marmalade recipes and found a variety of preps. I opted for easy and a method that made sense to me, choosing Chef John’s Kumquat Marmalade. I’ve made it twice and will probably make one more batch.

The recipe calls for kumquats, lemon zest and juice, star anise and a pinch of cayenne. I substituted half a cinnamon stick for the star anise.

The recipe calls for kumquats, lemon zest and juice, star anise and a pinch of cayenne. I substituted half a cinnamon stick for the star anise.

About 60 of my Nagami kumquats made 3.5 cups of marmalade. Unlike my orange marmalade, I don’t share my precious stash of kumquat marmalade.

A perfect quick snack. I savor each bite.

A perfect quick snack. I savor each bite.

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Imagine a formal garden allee of kumquats.

Kumquat allee

Kumquat allee

I wonder if the students at Westmont College in Santa Barbara know the kumquats are edible.

In My San Diego Garden and Kitchen

In My San Diego Garden and Kitchen

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!