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Citrus japonica, the kumquat is a small shrub or tree in the Rutaceae (citrus family) that originated in China and is now grown in tropical, semi-tropical, and warm temperate regions worldwide for its small, sweet and sour fruit, which is eaten whole (including the thin rind and seeds). Although previously classified as four species in a separate genus, Fortunella japonica (round or marumi kumquat), F. margarita (oval kumquat), F. hindsii, and F. crassifolia, kumquats are now considered to consist of various cultivars or varieties of a single Citrus species.

The kumquat tree is shrubby and compact, growing up to 5 m (16 ft) tall. Branches have numerous branchlets that are thornless or have thorns of lengths varying from under 1 to 5 cm (under 0.25 to 2 in). Leaves are alternate, lanceolate, and small, 3.25-8.6 cm (1.25 to 3.3 in) long. Flowers are fragrant and white, with 5 parts, and are borne singly or in clusters of up to 4 in the axils (where leaf meets stem). Fruits vary from round to oval or egg-shaped, is oval-oblong or round, 1 to 3.5 cm (0.5 to 1.25 in) across, with a thin peel that ripens to yellow, golden, or reddish-orange. The peel, which is edible (with a spicy outer layer and sweet inner layer), is covered with conspicuous oil glands, clings tightly to the pulp inside. The pulp is divided into 3 to 7 segments (some cultivars have more than others) with 2 to 5 small pointed seeds (or sometimes none).

Kumquats, which are high in vitamins A and C and potassium, are eaten fresh or processed into preserves, jams, marmalades, or candied. They are sometimes pickled or made into sauce, and are used to flavor meat and poultry dishes.

Kumquats, which have been called the “little gold gems of the citrus family,” are hardier, more disease-resistant, and more cold-tolerant than many other citrus species, and are often cultivated as ornamentals as far north as central Florida with in the U.S. The more common oval kumquats are grown commercially in Brazil, the U.S. (California and Florida), Israel, and Morocco, while round kumquats are primarily produced in China, Japan, and Vietnam.

(Bailey et al. 1976, Flora of China 2012, Morton 1987, van Wyk 2005.)


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