San Antonio Express News
Sunday, March 12, 2006
By David Rodriguez
San Antonio is coming out of a very dry and mild winter. We are all ready to jump into the beauty of spring. These past few weeks, I have noticed a lot of real nice looking citrus trees. Citrus trees established in the ground or growing in large pots have an abundance of colorful fruit. These trees not only look good, but their fruit tastes great!!!
Today’s article discusses two very popular citrus varieties–kumquat and calamondin, the “miniature oranges.” They might be little guys, but they hold up to any lime, lemon, grapefruit, or orange. These “miniature oranges” have unique characteristics of not only being small, but they can be either sweet or sour.
Kumquats, also called kinkan, are small citrus trees that grow up to 10 feet in their native lands of China. However, kumquats are cultivated in the United States in the warmer regions of California and Florida. These trees are commonly called “miniature oranges.” Although many kumquats are grown for their sweet, edible fruits, they are also used as ornamental plants because of their attractive, shiny leaves and delicate white flowers that bloom in the summer.
Kumquat fruit are small (pear shaped) and showy, bright yellow to orange in color, sparsely seeded, and not very juicy. The peel is fleshy, thick, aromatic, spicy, and edible. The fruit matures in late November and can be eaten whole; it is also candied and used for marmalade.
The kumquat variety, ‘Nagami’ is highly recommended for our area of the state. It typically becomes semi-dormant from fall into spring, with growth occurring only at relatively warm temperatures. Consequently, kumquats bloom much later than other citrus trees. Typically, they grow to about 4 feet tall and thrive best when planted in a large pot instead of the ground.
Kumquats are diverse fruits that also offer many nutritional benefits. They are cholesterol, fat, and sodium free and provide a good source of fiber and of the vitamins A and C. Additionally, kumquats contain traces of calcium and iron. For those on a diet, approximately eight kumquats contain 10 calories. Thus, they offer a sweet alternative to other less healthy snacks.
If you are looking to grow a plant that can serve both as a decorative and a food source, and you live in a warm climate, you may want to consider the kumquat. It is an attractive plant and is a distinctly sweet fruit; all in one evergreen tree.
Now that you know now a little bit about the sweet, sassy kumquat, here is something about the other “miniature orange,” the calamondin. Calamondin is an acid fruit originating from China. It was brought into the United States around 1900 as an “acid orange”. This “miniature orange” type is grown for its looks rather than for its fruit edibility. It is highly recommended for its performance as a handsome patio plant or a trimmed hedge. It is hardier to cold than any other true citrus species. Kumquat and trifoliate oranges are more tolerant to lower temperatures below 20 degrees F.
The calamondin has edible fruit which is small and orange in color. The size is about one inch in diameter, and resembles a round tangerine. The peel is thin and smooth, yellow to yellow-orange in color and easily separable. Calamondins can be grown as a landscape ornamental or in a large decorative container in colder regions that commonly do not grow citrus. It is somewhat drought- tolerant.
The “miniature oranges” are best suited to container culture, but will only grow for a limited time before they become root bound. They grow best outdoors in direct sunlight or half shade. Indoors, they should be placed in a very well-lit area.
Kumquats and calamondin plants should be watered when needed. Over-watering as well as under-watering will rapidly kill the plants. Fertilize often with a good water-soluble fertilizer every six to ten weeks. Adding a slow release fertilizer into container plants is also highly recommended every 3 to 4 months.
Calamondin will produce mature fruit all year, but are most abundant from November to June (and are sweeter at the end of the season!). One calamondin contains about 12 calories, with a very small trace of fat. It contains about 1.2g fiber, 37mg potassium, 7.3mg vitamin C, 57.4mg IU vitamin A, 8.4mg calcium, 15.5g water and 3.1g carbohydrates.
Both the kumquats and calamondins will be fun plants to add to your landscape or deck. These “miniature oranges” speak for themselves and should give you many years of enjoyment as well as a tasty and nutritional treat.
Remember, Learn and Have Fun!
Special Note: We have been getting a lot of calls and concerns on the severity of the drought. For further discussion and drought related answers, questions and solutions: please visit the website http://www.plantanswers.com/. For watering restrictions and recommendations for your lawn visit the website http://www.saws.org/conservation/SIP/.
David Rodriguez is the County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Bexar County. For any landscape or gardening information, call the Bexar County Master Gardeners “Hotline” at (210) 467-6575 or visit our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu