FOOD & DRINK
02/21/2012 03:25 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

Kumquats: What Are They, Anyway?

This tiny fruit is notable in many ways, but one of the kumquat's greatest qualities is that it's the only citrus you can eat whole -- skin and all. Unlike lemons and oranges, whose white pith is unbearably bitter, the kumquat's skin actually adds a pleasant sweetness, which is perfectly balanced by the tartness of the juicy flesh.

Kumquats are native and most popular in China, but they are also grown in the warm climates of California and Florida (among other Asian and European countries). They're in season during the winter months, as most citrus fruits are, and add a nice bright flavor to the lineup of winter produce. The tart and sweet flavor makes them a natural addition to a hearty winter salad, and they also work wonderfully in desserts. Often times people will caramelize the orange fruit to use as a topping for cakes or savory dishes.

When buying kumquats you'll want to look for fruit that is plump, bright in color -- no greenish tint -- and has a nice firm skin free of blemishes. They will keep for 2-3 days at room temperature, but if you don't plan to enjoy them right away, it's best to refrigerate the fruit in an airtight container where it can stay fresh for up to two weeks.

There are two main varities of kumquats -- Marumi and Nagami. Marumi are less common, but if you come across them be sure to pick some up. They are round in shape, golden yellow in color and are just a bit sweeter and juicier than Nagamis. Nagamis are more oval in shape, about the size of an olive, have a deeper orange color, and are much easier to find.

One interesting fact about the kumquat: despite its resemblance to the orange, it isn't always classified as citrus fruit. Some botanists place it in its own genus, Fortunella. Regardless of the classification, kumquats are one sweetly mouth-puckering fruit that you should enjoy all winter long.

Recipes we love:
Kumquat Tagine
Chestnut Confit with Roasted Potatoes, Bacon, and Kumquats
Winter Greens Salad
Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower

What do you think of kumquats? Leave us a comment below!

WATCH: How To Make A Kumquat Cocktail

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