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Kumquat

Fortunella japonica

Originally from:

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Status in Canary Islands:

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Why are stores not packed with Kumquats? Is what we ask ourselves after our first experience with them. One of the smaller citrus fruits out there, the Kumquat is a small and tough shrub that produces plenty of little orange citrus fruits. The Kumquat can produce quite a lot of fruit and in our climate even multiple times a year! It’s a resilient shrub that can withstand most pests and weather situations. The Kumquat isn’t picky about its soil, but it does need a place in the full sun for optimal production. Kumquats carry a lot of flavonoids and carotenoids which can have healthy benefits when eaten regularly. And since you can, and should, eat the peel because of its sweetness you don’t lose any nutritional value. But its seeds are a bit annoying when eating them.

Planted in

2023

Planted

3

Heigth planted

120

Heigth now

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Overview

Key Characteristics

Size

height: 300 cm | width: 300 cm

Type

none

Flowers in

November, December

Produce

fruits

Growth

none

Light

none

Soil

none

Conditions

none

Propagation

none

Insects

none

Helping hand

none

Usability

none

In depth

Everything you need to know

The sweetest and smallest citrus

The Kumquat originates from Southeastern China and was used by the people there since the year 600. Later on, with the introduction of the other citrus fruits to other parts of the world, kumquats also made their way to tropical regions such as South and Middle America, South Africa and also to the Mediterranean. Given worldwide production it is one of the lesser known and exploited citrus fruits. A shame because it is one of the more easily edible citrus fruits. You can eat them whole and raw and easily incorporate them into any Jam, Jelly or Chutney. This, combined with its drought resistant properties made us want to use them in our food forest.

Adores any place in the full sun

The Kumquat loves a position in the full sun. It doesn’t grow that tall and stays compact so wind is less of an issue. But, like with most fruit trees, it will produce a bit more in a more sheltered position. You can plant the kumquat in any type of soil, but for a helping hand in the beginning you can add regular compost in the planting hole to aerate the soil (important for clay), and introduce some more organic fiber to retain moisture (important for sand). The Kumquat adapts easily and takes root fairly quickly. It needs daily watering after planting for a week and after that you can steadily reduce watering to 2 times a week.

Not demanding but does need a little bit attention (and deserves it)

The first year you should remove the forming fruit after the flowers have been pollinated. By removing the early fruits you encourage the plant to spent its energy towards its roots and foliage. Due to its compact and slow growth speed it doesn’t need heavy pruning. If you notice a branch getting too long with a lot of flowers you can consider pruning that branch to reduce risk of snapping when the fruits start to form and getting too heavy. You can prune the kumquat year-round but not intensively. The shrub can survive long periods of drought but will not flower during a drought. If it already has some fruit during the drought, it might drop some of them to preserve energy. So during hot and dry conditions make sure to water the kumquat a bit more regularly.

No sugar needed!

You can use the fruits and seeds. The fruits are edible and eaten raw. The flesh is sour like a lime and the peel is sweet and slightly bitter. This makes for a very nice and refreshing combination of flavors. The fruits are also easily made into a jam, jelly, marmalade or chutney. When processing kumquats you also don’t need a lot of other gelling agents like gelatin, agar-agar or gelling sugar because the flesh, and especially the seeds contain a high amount of pectin. You can package the seeds in a net and soak them in your soon-to-be jam or chutney before boiling it to release the pectin, helping with the gelling. Unfortunately kumquats are more susceptible to decay after harvesting due to its thinner peel compared to Lemons, Oranges or Limes. So it’s shelf life is a lot shorter. Uncooled in a dry place, kumquats can be stored for 4-7 days before they start to decay. If stored cooled you can keep them for up to 14 days. So harvest them little by little if you don’t plan to make huge batches of jam. You can let the fruits stay on the shrub in the meantime, they don’t overripen.

The perfect quick win fruit

We planted our kumquats in late winter, early spring of 2023. The temperature here on the island averages on 18 degrees and at our farm at 1000 meters altitude, the temperature averaged about 10 degrees during that time. In their first year, our kumquats already started to flower twice. We removed the first set of fruits but were rewarded with a bunch of fruits the second time. So, although they are slow growers, they produce super quick! Our kumquats also experienced two periods of intense heat (above 25 degrees) for longer than 2 weeks during their first fall and winter season. Luckily they had no problem with it while we watered them 3 times a week instead of 2 times, proving their drought resistance for us. We used the second batch to make jam and marmalade for ourselves and friends. Sweet & sour and, compared to other jam recipes, relatively low on sugar. Next year we will definitely make these and sell them on our local markets
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Sjef

An ecologist and computernerd who loves every little plant and animal he encounters. Armed with books, papers, the internet and a bit of intuition, he tries to make the food forest the best it can be.

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