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Keep chewing till it tastes sweet: Kumquats are ‘Harvest of the Month’ at Sierra Harvest

Amanda Thibodeau
Special to The Union
Phaedra tastes a kumquat at Sierra Montessori Academy as part of the Sierra Harvest "Harvest of the Month" program.
Photo by Sherrill Eaton |

The number is 21,960. That’s how many kumquats found their way into over 300 Nevada County classrooms earlier this month. Small, shiny, sweet and tart, kumquats are a lesson in patience, bravery and tastiness.

Both common and exotic, the kumquat is March’s Harvest of the Month. If you’re like many people, you’ve never had one. Don’t feel bad — most of the 7,000 students who tasted them this month hadn’t tried a kumquat either. But once they tried it, they were sold! Before the tasting, only 10 percent of students claimed to like the fruit, and after tasting it, a whopping 70 percent were ready to eat more!

You may be wondering- what is a kumquat? And why do 70 percent of Nevada County school kids like it? A kumquat looks like a tiny orange, and tastes like a sweet tart … that is, if you can keep chewing it.


So here it is: Kumquat 101.

Step one: Procure a kumquat.

Step two: Roll it in your (clean) hands to release the essential oils, and inhale deeply. Contemplate its citrusy nature. Ask yourself why you don’t smell things before eating them more often.

Step three: Pop the whole thing in your mouth and keep chewing till it tastes sweet. Are you up for the challenge?

If you are, you might just get lucky.


In China, kumquats are called “Gam Gat Sue.” “Gam” rhymes with the Chinese word for gold and “Gat” rhymes with the Chinese word for luck. The tiny green leaves symbolize wealth, and the shape of the kumquat is a symbol of unity and perfection. Everyone who eats the fruit for Chinese New Year is promised good fortune, prosperity and happiness. Not a bad deal for a tiny fruit.

You can eat these vitamin C-packed, antioxidant-filled gems out of your hand plain — or you can get creative.

Here are a few ways to enjoy the lucky kumquat:

Halve the fruits and add to a green winter salad with endive, escarole or spinach

Add the kumquats to a fruit salad with kiwis (another Harvest of the Month star!), other citrus and a dash of mint

Go classic and make a marmalade or candy them

Get fancy and preserve them in honey or make an infusion

Mix with spicy peppers for a flavorful relish

Amanda Thibodeau is director of the Farm to School program at Sierra Harvest.


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