What’s a kumquat — and WHY does it have a festival?

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.

YUM!

small orange oval citrus fruit half covered with chocolate

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.

blonde 8-year-old with a chocolate covered kumquat in one hand and a lollipop in the other. Bowl of chocolate covered kumquats in foreground. At the 2013 Kumquat Festival in Dade City, Florida

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.

storefront in dade city florida during the kumquat festival. orange kumquats in crystal glasses.

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, timeinabottle@tampabay.rr.com.

bottle of kumquat body lotion, white

Cindy at Heavenly Scent Soap had beautiful, translucent handmade soaps made with kumquats and other natural ingredients, like olive oil.

bars of handmade soaps, yellow, orange, red, made with kumquats and olive oil and mica, and honey. Lined up in a display tray

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.)

bl kum size

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!

Queen Kathleen of Dade City, blonde woman in t-shirt standing behind containers of her home-brewed honeys

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!)

slice of kumquat cake in plastic container. White frosting with swirls and yellow cake. from betty cakes in dade city florida

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.

elderly woman in wheelchair holding a bushy, 3-foot kumquat treat loaded with little orange, plum-sized  fruits. elderly man pushing wheelchair.

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!

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Comments

  1. Happy that I found your blog. We are (I least I am–lol) plotting a move to the Clearwater area, and one of the things I am looking forward to is citrus trees:) Having spent lots of time in the area during winters, I realize that some things we grow up easily up north might put up a fight in sand. Looking forward to reading more on your blog and I grabbed your RSS feed. Thanks for sharing.

    • You will love Clearwater, Denise, and despite the challenges (sand!) I’m sure you’ll find it’s a lot more fun to grow year-round. I’m on Facebook at Diggin Florida Dirt, and there’s lots of great chat there among local gardeners about problems, plants, etc. If you’ve got a question, it’s a great place to get a quick answer, either from me or from other gardeners. Hopefully, I’ll give you some good ideas here, too!

  2. Glad you found the fest. Hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing the fun.

  3. Awesome! I would have loved this festival. Thanks for sharing.

    • Put it on your calendar, Backyard! It’s a great day — especially if the weather’s nice. And if you’ve never been to Dade City, it’s a really charming, Old Florida community. (Lots of antiques stores!)

  4. Amber Brasseaux says:

    Love the blog , but I must share! The lady in the sixth picture looks IDINTICAL. To my mom!

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