Cumquats are relatively slow, compact-growing trees that can reach up to 3m tall. In the garden, they are wonderfully decorative with lush, glossy green foliage dotted with colorful pint-sized fruits and fragrant white flowers.
The cumquat or kumquat (the name comes from the Cantonese for “golden orange” or “golden tangerine”) now falls into the genus Fortunella, though most of us still recognize it as a type of citrus.
Among the named varieties, keep an eye out for the ‘Nagami’ cumquat, with decorative teardrop-shaped fruit, and ‘Meiwa’, the classic round and brightly colored variety.
You can eat the small fruit, rind and all, in just one bite. In fact, the edible skin is quite sweet and a lovely balance to the slightly sour flesh.
Cumquats also make wonderful marmalade and combine beautifully with dark chocolate in luscious desserts. And if you’ve never tasted cumquats soaked in brandy, then you’re truly missing out.
With their neat habit and decorative, edible fruit, cumquats are the perfect choice for pots and small gardens.
Bring a Mediterranean air to the garden with cumquats in big terracotta pots, train them into topiary or standards or espalier them against a courtyard wall.
They are remarkably cold tolerant and adaptable to a wide range of climates. A sunny spot is best.
They also enjoy a rich, well-drained, slightly acidic soil, so dig in plenty of compost before planting or grow them in a good-quality potting mix.
Common name: Cumquat or kumquat
Botanical name: Fortunella japonica (syn. Citrus japonica)
Aspect & soil: Sun; well-drained soil
Best climate: Most areas
Habit: Evergreen tree
Propagation: Seed, cutting, grafting
Cumquats are dripping with fruit from late autumn to early spring. Remove fruit from young plants for the first couple of years to help establish a strong, healthy plant.
The fruit turns from green to a brilliant orange when ripe and holds well on the plant.
Cumquats enjoy a whole banquet of food, so feed them regularly throughout the growing season with a complete organic fertilizer.
Apply a good layer of mulch to help conserve moisture; just be sure to keep it away from the stem of the plant.
Keep the water up to plants, particularly when young fruit is developing, and trim plants to shape after picking your crop.
DID YOU KNOW?
Cumquats originate from China, where the fruit is a symbol of prosperity.