Move over lemons and limes – a new citrus fruit is in town. Justyn McGrigor introduces a fruit that offers taste, versatility and a sprinkling of good luck.
Cumquats (or kumquats, depending on where you live) are a symbol of good luck in Asian countries where it is believed they help to send you along the road of prosperity with good tidings.
This citrus fruit is especially popular during Chinese New Year – the plant is used as a display in homes with the golden/orange fruit resembling golden spheres hanging in plentiful numbers, as each tree can yield hundreds of fruits.
The Chinese love for the cumquat has been a long-term affair – they are said to be the first people to cultivate the tree. Over time, the tree gradually appeared in other parts of Asia including Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. By the mid 1800s, cumquat trees had been introduced to Europe by the botanist Robert Fortune, for whom the Genus Fortunella was named.
We love our citrus in Australia – lemons, oranges and mandarins are ever-present in our lives and a mainstay in our diets, in both solid and liquid forms. However, strangely, the cumquat has not enjoyed the same popularity. Time to address that issue and get this golden fruit to join the party!
There are two main types of cumquats, distinguishable by their slightly different shaped fruits:
The round fruits come from the Marumi or Calamondin varieties. These fruits are slightly flatter – not unlike a mandarin shape – and are the most popular type in Australia. The second variety is the Nagami with a more oval shaped fruit.
The whole fruit (rind, flesh and pips) of both types are edible and can be eaten straight from the tree. The best fruit is firm with no discoloration on the rind and with a soft sheen. The flesh is quite dry and has a sharp flavour, while the skin is slightly sweeter.
Locally, cumquats are available during the winter when they are at their bountiful best, with clean, bright, orange skins. Pick up these lucky fruits at your local providore, where they cost roughly $10 per kg. They don’t need to be refrigerated – in fact, these fruits are better out of the cool room.
This adaptable fruit works really well in both sweet and savoury dishes – don't imagine it is only good for jam or conserve! Cumquats can be served raw, they can be filled (as suggested by one of superb chefs), dried or candied.
Don't just think just about food either when it comes to cumquats. It's good luck all around if your G&T arrives with a surprising golden orb suspended in that glorious liquid – or how about a martini’s regular olive replaced with a sunshine slice of edible surprise?
Once the bright and brilliant cumquat starts being featured in cocktails it will surely be just a matter of time until the fruit finds it's rightful place alongside the lemon and lime as one of Australia’s favourites. Stay ahead of the trend and get these lucky citrus fruits into your venue's offerings.
Justyn McGrigor operates top supplier Murdoch Produce. Contact him on 02 8543 9999 or murdochproduce.com.au