The Unvegan

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Strange Fruits: Kumquat

Just a pile of quats.

Once upon a time, I was biking through the rice paddies of Yangshuo, China, when my local friend stopped at a small tree to pick the strange, small berry-like fruits off of it. She handed a few to me to try and told me they were called kumquats. Growing up in Michigan, I had heard of kumquats before, but had never seen one with my own eyes and had no idea what one should look or taste like. This was a strange fruit, indeed.

That day I was taught about how to eat them and discovered their very unique taste, but I quickly forgot about them until my boss brought some into work this week to share. These were grown on her own tree and looked just like the ones I had eaten back in China. But before I get to the taste, here’s a little kumquat background.

No, that’s not an orange grape, but I would love it if science could start making those.

While the size of grapes, kumquats are actually a citrus and resemble a shrunken, ovular orange. Their name comes from the Cantonese “gam gwat,” which explains why my friend had such an easy time translating the name to English. Like other citrus fruit the kumquat has a dimpled rind, but unlike those other fruit you eat this rind (and not just because it would be a pain in the ass to peel).

Show me your seed!

The rind is actually essential to the experience, because it is the sweetest part of the fruit. In fact, the inside is crazy sour and almost inedible without the rind to balance it out. Before eating, though, it’s best to squeeze and roll the kumquat to release the essential oils in the rind. This helps to sweeten it all up. After that, you can kinda just pop them in your mouth and eat. They seem to have around four to six sections and each typically has a orange-sized seed that can be spit out later.

The overall experience of eating a kumquat is very unique and they are definitely a fruit worth trying. People like to eat them as jams or use them with cocktails, but I prefer them straight up and raw to really experience the contrast of flavors. The taste might catch you off-guard at first, but it will be worth it.