Florida's Dade City celebrates its “ode to the kumquat” during the January 2016 Kumquat Festival, honoring its distinction as the world’s leading supplier of the tasty fruit.
Amid green hills and pastures an hour north of Tampa, you'll find groves of this “golden gem." Saturday, January 30th marks the festival date, where over 40,000 visitors join in the fun.
So what exactly is a kumquat? Orange in color, this bite-sized citrus fruit can be eaten skin and all, providing a flavorful, pungent, sweet and sour taste. It is often baked into cakes and pies and used as a glaze or flavoring for main dishes.
The kumquat is believed to be a native of China, and has long been a symbol of prosperity during the Chinese New Year celebrations. It was brought to the U.S., where two species are grown, the Nagami and the Meiwa. The more common Nagami (oval shaped) kumquat is tart and ideal for marmalades and jellies, while the Meiwa (round shaped), is sweeter and ideal for snacking, lacking the tartness of a Nagami.
While consumed skin and all, the peel is the sweetest part of the fruit and the sourness comes from the kumquat pulp of seeds and juice. Many insist the best way to savor this dainty fruit is by removing the stem, cutting it into small slices and eliminating the seeds, while others eat it whole.
2016 Kumquat Festival
Held in downtown Dade City, the Kumquat Festival honors this little fruit. The homegrown family event provides fruit tastings of every imaginable kind, including kumquat pies, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, marinades, vinaigrette and salsa. And there is plenty of fruit to purchase for creating your own signature dishes at home.
Local entertainment kicks up the celebration, giving the event a special homespun feel with acts such as the Strawberry Express Cloggers, the Southern Gospel Centurion Trio, and the Cypress Creek Dixieland Band. And don’t miss Mr. and Ms. Kumquat, the arts and crafts exhibition, car show and the downtown storefronts dressed in what else, but “kumquat themes.”
2016 Kumquat Growers Open House: Best Kept Secret
But many believe the best-kept secret occurs before the Festival. The Kumquat Growers Cooperative hosts a two-day Open House January 28 and 29, from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. each day prior to the Festival. To avoid the crowds, consider this smaller event and meet the kumquat growers in person.
Held in nearby St. Joseph at the Kumquat Growers Packinghouse, local growers welcome guests, relate history and discuss tips for growing the fruit, while providing tours of the packinghouse where the fruit is processed and shipped.
To experience the agricultural side, tram tours take visitors on a ride through the kumquat grove as growers explain the nuances of growing. Kumquats, including tasty baked treats and gift items, are for sale, and lunch is included.
For overnight accommodations consider the charming St. Charles Inn Bed & Breakfast in nearby San Antonio. Innkeepers Ted and Anne Stephens, with the help of Ted's father and their sons, spent five years restoring the 1913 St. Charles Hotel. Originally constructed by Charles Barthle to provide lodging for railway passengers journeying to or from Tampa, the building has been transformed from complete disrepair by the Stephens family.
It is now a top quality accommodation bringing southern hospitality and comfort to the San Antonio area. Outdoor sitting porches, beautiful gardens, exquisite antiques and Southern Living-style décor make this a stop well worth your visit. And the gourmet continental breakfast is a food lover's delight.
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