Using up kumquats

Let’s take a break from the thrifting blogs this week. Today, I want to talk about my dad’s kumquat tree, and how I’ve been trying to use up our surplus of kumquat fruits this winter. While this post won’t be about secondhand shopping, I feel like some intersection exists between thrifters and people who want to mitigate food waste!

Anyway, my dad has been growing a kumquat tree in the backyard for a few years now. It’s a pretty sturdy tree, managing to produce lush foliage and healthy fruit despite the valley’s scorching summers and blustery winters. It’s been a humble but beautiful fixture in our yard, quietly tucked away in a corner where I’m often reading or playing with the dogs. I am not above using it as an occasional backdrop for an Instagram photo. 

Despite the tree’s steadfast presence over the years, I never thought much about actually eating the kumquats. On a whim, I decided to try the fruits one day and, to my surprise, reveled in their lovely tart flavor. I find kumquats so novel because you can actually eat the peel! The rind is subtly sweet, and the juice is extra tangy. The only thing that’s a bit of a drag is removing the seeds, but it really doesn’t take too long to do that. 

I enjoy snacking on kumquats by themselves, but I’ve also been experimenting with different recipes, too. And of course I had to make a blog out of my many culinary misadventures. Here are the results of some of my most recent kumquat kitchen experiments!

Ways to use up kumquats

Make kumquat-infused sparkling water

Kumquat sparkling water

Though it’s basically just sparkling water with fruit slices, the tangy citrus flavor with the bubbly water gives you Crush vibes without the artificial orange aftertaste. You can see in this picture that I cut up some kiwi slices, too. It makes for a great warm afternoon refresher. 

Kumquat sparkling water recipe

  • Pour a handful of ice and half a bottle of sparkling water into a cup. 
  • Cut 2 kumquats into circular, coin-shaped slices and remove the seeds. 
  • Toss the kumquat slices into the drink.
  • Enjoy! I also love adding slices of kiwi, grapefruit, and dragonfruit — sometimes all at the same time. 

Make kumquat tea

Kumquat tea

While kumquat tea is a pretty popular option for using up kumquats, I didn’t find myself enjoying it very much, despite very much being someone who loves to brew tea from random things in the yard. I expected it to taste honey citron ginger tea, but my boiled kumquat tea ended up having a bitter, soapy aftertaste that I didn’t enjoy very much. Won’t be including a recipe here. (If you MUST know, though, I basically boiled up some water, tossed in sliced and deseeded kumquats, and added a squirt of honey.)

Bake a kumquat cake

Kumquat cake

I don’t bake much, but it’s always nice to incorporate fruits from the yard into recipes like cherry galettes! Have you seen those viral orange cakes on TikTok? I made a delicious orange blender cake (from stephcooksstuff) and decided to try my hand at making a kumquat cake. The kumquat cake turned out pretty okay, although it could have used a bit more sugar and maybe some yogurt or cream for extra moistness. I have to concede, though, that overall, the orange blender cake had a sweeter flavor and more interesting texture — I used a really sweet navel orange for the orange blender cake, and the rinds left yummy semisweet chunks in the batter. 

I prefer the orange cake, but my mom says that the kumquat cake is more fragrant. The orange cake has a bit of a fruitcake dessert vibe, whereas the kumquat one tastes subtle enough where you could honestly eat it with cold cuts and cheeses. 

Kumquat cake recipe

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Mix together 3 eggs, ½ cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and ⅓ cup of oil in a blender. Blend.  
  • Add 8 kumquats and ½ of a small orange — I quartered the orange and thinly sliced and de-seeded the kumquats. Blend. 
  • Mix together 2 cups of flour, 3 teaspoons of baking soda, and ½ teaspoon of salt in a blender. Blend. 
  • Pour the batter in a cake pan or dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. 

I know that some people also like to dehydrate kumquats or incorporate them into jellies and jams. There’s such a wide world of culinary possibilities out there for these sour little fruits, and I’m hoping that they’ll last us into the warmer months for more refreshing beverages and desserts.