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Kumquats, spelled "cumquats" in England, are a type of small citrus fruit, typically only an inch or two long, that are grown is many parts of the world. These unique fruits can be raised at home as well as in commercial orchards, as long as the climate is mild enough. A kumquat festival is a celebration that some growers have at the end of the growing season to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Such festivals also serve as a way of raising the awareness of kumquats, ultimately increasing their popularity and sales.
This fruit has the distinction of being the only citrus fruit in which the peel is eaten. They are best if the fruit is squashed slightly and rolled between the fingers to release the oil in the skin before being eaten. The skin is typically quite sweet, but the inner flesh can be tart, which makes biting into a kumquat an interesting mix of flavors.
Dade City, Florida, calls itself the Kumquat Capital of the World, and every year the town hosts the Dade City Kumquat Festival, the best-known kumquat festival in the United States. The festivities only last a single day, but the event has attracted as many as 40,000 visitors to buy the fruit and to sample the many different kinds of foods sold there. Local schools and businesses also use the kumquat festival as a chance to be seen, but ultimately, the events of the festival focus on this tiny golden fruit. This kumquat festival takes over the town for the day and includes races, face painting, and antique auto displays. Artists and craftspeople from around the area set up booths to display the wares they have made throughout the year, and the throngs of tourists often buy the beautiful and unusual items they find.
One important feature of a kumquat festival is a recipe contest. Entrants create new dishes or cook their old favorites, and anything is generally allowed as long as it contains kumquats. Jams, jellies, pies, and cookies are just some of the popular food choices made in the hopes of winning a blue ribbon. Vendors selling many kinds of kumquat treats also fill the streets.
Kumquat fans who can’t make it to a festival can buy their favorite fruit online, choosing between the Nagami and the Meiwa varieties. Nagami is very common in the United States and is readily available in season, but the Meiwa, although very common in China, is seldom seen commercially in the U.S. In recent years both types have become more available and the Meiwa can be custom ordered from some growers.