When I told a friend earlier this week that I went to the Kumquat Festival over the weekend, her reaction surprised me.
“KOOMquat? My baby was a koomquat! It freaked me out!”
Four years ago, she had signed up at BabyCenter, where pregnant moms can get alerts as their fetuses reach milestones. At 10 weeks, it notified her that Mason-to-be was “almost the size of a kumquat.”
Rachel was offended. She didn’t know what a kumquat (pronounced “kum-quat”) was, but it didn’t sound good.
I understand. I knew kumquats and I wasn’t a fan. The little citrus fruits, eaten skin and all, were too tarty-grapefruit for my tastes.
And then I tried a chocolate-dipped kumquat at Betty Cakes.
Betty Cakes co-owner David West was enthusiastically hawking the two-for-$1 treats outside his shop during the Jan. 26 Kumquat Festival. I witnessed lots of newbie reactions while waiting for my friend, Sherri, to return from Betty Cakes’ very popular bathroom line.
This one was typical.
Dade City, population about 6,000, is a quaint, old-Florida city. Come Kumquat Festival, businesses go kumquat crazy. Every window display is an ode to sweet-bitter tang.
More than 400 vendors line the streets selling everything from handcrafted jewelry to puppets. I focused on kumquats. How many ways can this sassy citrus sweeten my life? I was surprised.
Lotions! Yup. Lather up. Quirky Kumquat lotion is “home-crafted” by Sharon Guild, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cindy at Heavenly Scent Soap had beautiful, translucent handmade soaps made with kumquats and other natural ingredients, like olive oil.
She was also pretty darned proud of her kumquats, which she gets from a Florida grower farther south. Hers put the little freebies provided by one of the event’s sponsors to shame!
(Actually, the sponsor probably provided Nagami kumquats, which are smaller and a little more tart. Hers are more likely Meiwa, which are bigger and a bit sweeter. Both grow well in Florida.)
You haven’t lived till you’ve sampled a tiny spoonful of Queen Kathleen kumquat fusion honey, made with orange blossom honey and kumquat puree. So good! (I learned at this stand that the locals aren’t really big on growing kumquats. Nearby St. Joseph is the “Kumquat Capital of the World” thanks to commercial growers.)
Here’s Queen Kathleen. You can buy her honeys at a self-service stand in Dade City. Check the link above. They start at $5 for 6 ounces, and they’re GOOD!
After all the sampling, we got thirsty. Thank goodness Queen Kathleen also offers Gourmet Kumquat Soda. It has a mild grapefruit undertone that I actually found refreshing.
For dessert, a slice of the very popular kumquat cake, back at Betty Cakes. (I’m starting to figure it out — just add sugar and kumquats can be my new favorite fruit!)
Of course, once you fall in love with the fruits, you’ll want to grow the little trees. They’re cold hardy in Florida and are easy to grow in the ground or in containers, according to the agriculture specialists at the University of Florida. They get up to 10 feet tall and produce fruits after two years, from November to April. They’re heavy feeders, so be ready to fertilize!
Billie and Paul of Brandon left the fest ready for kumquat heaven — they paid $30 for this nice-sized tree.
For the record, Rachel’s little kumquat, now 4 years old, got some sugar along the way. Perhaps his mom’s love of jelly doughnuts? (Not judging, Rachel!) He’s super sweet!