What are Kumquats and Why are they Good for you?
Many people have heard the name kumquat but it turns out … according to a picture quiz on a popular quiz website that few people are able to identify the fruit from its image. If you are one of the people unfamiliar with this delicious, healthy citrus fruit then you are in the right place to learn a little more about it.
Kumquats are very small, evergreen trees native to the mountainous regions of South-Eastern China. These days, they are cultivated in many other parts of the world and are grown privately in gardens as ornamental plants. During the winter months, mature trees can bear hundreds of small, brilliantly colored fruits that can be enjoyed in plenty of different ways.
Bright orange on their outside, the segmented inside of the fruit resembles a miniature orange. The pulp of the kumquat fruit contains one or two central seeds which taste very bitter and are typically spat out.
Types of Kumquat
There are a number of different varieties of kumquat but only four are widely cultivated for their fruit.
Nagami kumquat or Fortunella margarita is the most commonly grown variety of the fruit in the USA. It is oval in shape with a light, yellow colored exterior and a tart flavor.
Meiwa kumquat is the largest of the kumquat fruit varieties. The fruit has a round shape and is especially popular In Asia, especially in Japan.
Marumi kumquat is also round and has a distinctive, sweet flavor.
Hong Kong Wild kumquat is the smallest sized kumquat fruit.
Despite not being the best-known fruit in the west, kumquats are notable for many reasons one of which being that it is the only citrus fruit that you can actually consume whole. I mean the entire fruit and that includes the skin. Other popular citrus fruits like oranges, mandarins, limes and lemons may have a delicious interior but their pith is intolerably bitter and is almost always discarded.
The kumquat skin on the other hand is actually fairly sweet and pleasant to eat. It actually adds a sweetness to the overall flavor of the fruit and balances well with the tartness of the flesh.
Kumquats are still most popular in South-East Asian countries including in Thailand where I happen to live but these days they are grown in many other warm climates including Florida and California. Like most other citrus fruits, they come into season during the winter and are a delicious addition to your other favorite winter produce. Their sweet, but tart flavor make them a superb addition to a variety of deserts or winter salads.
Nutritional Value of Kumquats
Besides just being extremely tasty, kumquats are a very healthy fruit. They are low in sodium and devoid of fat and cholesterol. They contain a high amount of antioxidant vitamin C and lower levels of vitamin A. They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber which in itself comes with a variety of health benefits especially with regard to digestion.
Kumquats possess a good variety of essential minerals in varying levels including calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.
The Health Benefits of Eating Kumquats
1) Digestive System Benefits
Kumquats are a very good source of dietary fiber and for the majority of us that do not get the recommended amounts of daily fiber into our diets, they represent a convenient and tasty way to increase our dose. Being only about the same size as an olive, it is easy enough to grab a handful of the fruit and snack on them whenever you are feeling peckish. About 8 of these small fruits will provide you with around 10 grams of dietary fiber that your digestive system will be very grateful for.
Fiber has many well-known benefits to the digestive system and a lack of it can lead to many common complaints including constipation, indigestion, diarrhea, bloating and stomach pain. Eating high fiber food like kumquat can help alleviate these problems and prevent them from recurring. Fiber may also improve the way in which nutrients from other foods are absorbed.
2) Immune System Support
Kumquats may be small but they pack a healthy punch that can protect you from a variety of illnesses. Just like the orange. their larger and much more familiar cousin, kumquats are brimming with vitamin C which has a huge impact on the body’s health.
Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant and is involved in countless bodily processes not least of which is the boost that it gives your immune system. This helps strengthen our defenses and protects us from common infections caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. Vitamin C not only protects us from illness but also helps us to heal more quickly.
3) Skin Health
Because they are such a rich source of antioxidants, eating kumquats can help improve the overall health of your skin and may even help you look younger in the long run. Antioxidants play a major role in skin health. Making sure that you get as many into your system as you can will have a marked effect.
Antioxidants help protect against cell damage and even rejuvenate the cells which are exposed daily to free radicals. Being so small and easy to eat, kumquats are just perfect to snack on if you want to give your skin a boost.
4) Healthier Hair
In the same way that kumquats can improve the health of your skin, they can have much the same effect on your hair. The antioxidant vitamin C as well as the other minerals found in the fruit are ideal for ensuring your locks stay healthy and strong.
5) Eye Health
Kumquats are also a great source of several nutrients known to be good for the eyes and vision. They contain a high level of vitamin A as well as beta-carotene both of which are linked to better eye health. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant responsible for giving fruit and vegetables like carrots their characteristic, bright colors. We all know how good carrots are for your vision and the same can be said of kumquats.
Eating these nutrient dense and antioxidant rich fruits can also prevent oxidative damage to the eyes and prevent the macular degeneration that most people experience with age.
6) Teeth and Bones
Kumquats contain several minerals that can reduce you risk of developing bone conditions like osteoporosis. Calcium in particular is linked to healthier bones and better mobility but the magnesium which is also present in the fruit is equally important.
How to Eat Kumquats
Before moving over here to Thailand, I had no real idea what to expect from a kumquat and certainly no idea how you were supposed to eat it. When my wife caught me trying to peel one of these little fruits, she thought it was hilarious. After she had stopped laughing, she gave me the kumquat eating lesson.
The way you are supposed to eat kumquats is completely counter-intuitive. Forget the way that you have been eating other citrus fruits all your life. The skin is the sweetest part and the juice tends to be bitter. The way to do it is to nibble a little off the top of your fruit and actually squeeze out some of the juice. Then pop the entire fruit including the skin into your mouth. The more juice you squeeze out, the sweeter your fruit will be.
Have you ever eaten kumquats?
What did you think of them and have you ever taken a different approach to eating them?