Golden orange translates to kam kwat in Chinese and that is the origin of the name of this strange tree, kumquat, which has been extensively cultivated on the island of Corfu since 1924. Kumquats are slow-growing evergreen shrubs or short trees, with dense branches, sometimes bearing small thorns. The leaves are dark glossy green, and the flowers white, similar to other citrus flowers, borne singly or clustered in the leaf-axils. Depending on size, the kumquat tree can produce hundreds or even thousands of fruits each year.
The kumquat is a tree that belongs to citrus trees and does not exceed 2.5 meters in height. Its fruits ripen in December and turn orange from green, as is the case with other citrus fruits as well. That means that the most suitable period for picking extends from January to February. The edible fruit closely resembles that of the orange, but it is much smaller and ovular, being approximately the size and shape of an olive. Delicious, sweet yet tangy, kumquat fruit is a winter/spring season delicacy. Although kumquats taste just like that of citrus fruits, they are distinguished in a way that they can be eaten completely including the peel. On the Interior, the fruit resembles tiny orange with juicy segments firmly adherent each other and with the rind. As with all citrus fruits, it abounds in vitamins A and C.
The plant is native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. The earliest historical reference to kumquats appears in literature of China in the 12th century. They have long been cultivated in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. They were introduced to Europe in 1846 by Robert Fortune, collector for the London Horticultural Society, and shortly thereafter into North America.
The kumquat was brought to Corfu by the botanist Sidney Merlin, best known for an orange variety that he cultivated in his estate in Corfu that is known in Greece as “Merlin”. Today, the kumquat is grown mainly in the North Coast of Corfu, especially around the village of Nymphes.