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Fresh From the Farmers' Market: The Tiny But Mighty Kumquat

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Perhaps you've underestimated the kumquat. They're incredibly small, have a ridiculous name, and aren't called for in many of mom's standby recipes. We took one for the team this week and ventured to try them anyway, and it turns out they're tiny, mighty, and delicious—so long as you're willing to get a little sticky. And you tackled pomelos with us last month, right? That means you're ready for a new kitchen challenge.These little orange globes are harvested and available to Angelenos during winter, but with spring fast approaching, you only have about a week or two left to grab them. We picked up two baskets at the Culver City farmers' market and got some schooling on the lilliputian fruit from a Central Valley farmer. Things to know: They're a hearty citrus, but they don't do well in extremely low temps. During cold stretches farmers flood the land around the kumquat trees, creating a low-lying fog that keeps the ground just warm enough to stave off freezing. Once picked, many people jump right to candying them, but there are plenty of other options, too.

What's especially convenient about the kumquat is that you can pop them in your mouth right after washing. The inner flesh is bitter, but the peel is sweet enough to overpower that bitterness. They're a perfect on-the-go snack. When cooking with them, however, most recipes call for the skin alone, so you'll have to separate the peel and pith. Here are two recipes we tried this week, one sweet and one savory. We think they both do the kumquat justice.

For turmeric chicken with kumquat dressing (adapted from Epicurious), gather together:

  • 2 tsps tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tblsp lemon grass, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups kumquat sliced, seeded
  • 1/2 cup shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/8 cup rice vinegar unseasoned
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • zest from 3 limes
  • 3 chicken breasts or 4-5 thighs, room temperature
  • Mix turmeric and cayenne pepper in a small bowl, then rub both sides of chicken with the mixture. Set aside for about 2 hours. As shown below (clockwise from the top left), wash kumquats, then separate peel and flesh. Discard flesh and slice peels. Chop shallots and ginger. Set aside.

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    In a small sauce pan, bring lime juice, lemon grass, sugar and vinegar to boil, making a simple syrup. Once sugar has dissolved, remove pan from heat and strain out lemongrass. Add in kumquats, shallots and ginger, then saute for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add 1 small Thai chili for some heat, if you like.


    Photo by Chelsee Lowe/LAist

    Cook your chicken however you prefer. We used a grill pan on the stove, but using a barbecue would probably be great, too. Lay chicken over rice, then spoon kumquat sauce over chicken and enjoy.

    If that looks a tad more involved than you'd like, try recipe number two: easy-peasy kumquat marmalade from Recipe Girl. You'll need:

  • kumquats (the more you use the more marmalade you'll have)
  • sugar
  • one orange
  • one lemon
  • As shown below, remove pith from your kumquats; toss peels in food processor, along with flesh from one orange. Pulse, don't blend. You want more of a chunky fruit salsa than a juice. Measure your pulp, then put it back in food processor with equal parts sugar (1 cup pulp? Add 1 cup sugar.). Add a squeeze of lemon, then mix with a few quick pulses. Put mixture in pan and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring once in awhile.

    The marmalade may seem runny, but it will thicken as it cools. Move from pan to storage jar, then taste when a little cooler.

    We tried it on gluten-free pancakes and it works as a fantastic syrup replacement.