Kumquats come into their own around Christmas time, when they are frequently preserved in brandy or pickled. You can eat them raw, skins too although they have a tart flavour.You can also find candied kumquats. They are believed to be native to China, as there are references to their cultivation in manuscripts dating back to 1176 AD.
   They were brought back from China to London by a plant explorer, Robert Fortune, a Scot who was employed by the Royal Horticultural Society, in 1846. He brought back the Nagumi variety which is the one most often cultivated in the sunnier states of the USA. They have been grown in pots and in greenhouses as ornamental plants, as well as eventually for their fruits since the mid 19th century, when all things “exotic” were swooped upon by the fashionable gentry in Britain and the US.
   Their Chinese name means “gold orange” and the trees are bought as New Year gifts to symbolize good luck in male-female relationships. They are also good luck symbols and in Japan bonsai kumquat trees are given as gifts at New Year.
   At first they were classified as Citrus but Dr. Walter T. Swingle transferred them to the Fortunella category in 1915 in honour of Robert Fortune. There are moves to remove them to the Citrus group once again though, as they are citrus fruits.
   Kumquats can rarely be grown successfully from seed, as they do not grow good firm roots. Instead they are grafted onto citrus root stocks, such as lemons. When you see them in the shops around Christmas time they usually have their leaves attached, a sign of the festive season, rather like mistletoe, holly and other evergreen sprays, a throwback to our pagan past when we celebrated the winter solstice quite differently.
   They are high in vitamins and trace elements, and contain many of the B-complex vitamins as well as Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. They are high in potassium and vitamin C and are good to cure colds. They are believed to be useful to heal wounds, for general oral health, and they boost the immune system and improve general health, with the vitamin C promoting the absorption of calcium and iron by the body. They can protect the cardiovascular system and reduce the pain in arthritic joints.
  You can make a hot drink with kumquats which is good for getting rid of a cold. Wash 10 kumquats and cut them in half. Squeeze the juice out of them into a teapot, add the halves and pour boiling water over them. Let the kumquats steep for 5 mins, covered and drink, sweetened with honey or gur (jaggery).

1 lb kumquats
¾ lb sugar

Layer the kumquats and sugar in a Kilner or Mason jar and cover them with brandy, leaving 1” at the top of the jar. Seal the jar and turn it upside-down once a day for a week to move the sugar which sinks to the bottom. Put the jar back in its original upright position each time.
   After a week you can leave it for two months in a cool dark place and serve with amoretti biscuits and cream.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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