Amidst green hills and pastures, an hour north of Tampa and a little over an hour west of Orlando, you’ll find groves dedicated to Florida’s “golden gem,” also known as the kumquat.
So what exactly is a kumquat? Orange in color, this small bite-sized fruit can be eaten – skin and all, providing a flavorful, pungent sweet and sour taste. It is a member of the citrus family and often baked into desserts and used as a glaze or flavoring for main dishes.
Freshly picked Florida Kumquats
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.
Slice kumquats in threes, then remove the seeds
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 prefer it whole.
The Kumquat Festival
Florida Kumquat Pie, courtesy Dade City Chamber
Held in downtown Dade City, the Kumquat Festival is a homegrown family event that provides fruit tastings of every imaginable combination including kumquat pies, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, marinades, vinaigrettes and salsa.
There is plenty of fruit to purchase for creating your own signature dishes at home.
Take home fresh kumquats from the Festival
Hundreds of vendors and lots of wonderful sponsors come together to make this a fun-filled day of celebration. Local entertainment gives the event a special homespun feel. Some of the highlights in the past were the Strawberry Express Cloggers, the Cypress Creek Dixieland Band and church groups that perform Christian, Soul, Pop and Gospel music.
Don’t miss Mr. and Ms. Kumquat, the arts and crafts exhibition, the antique car show and the downtown storefronts dressed in “kumquat themes.”
Admission is FREE, transportation from two satellite parking areas is FREE, city-owned public parking downtown is FREE and the experience of a unique, authentic and fun-filled festival is unforgettable.
Kumquat Grower and expert, Frank Gude
Many believe the best-kept secret occurs before the Festival. The Kumquat Growers Cooperative hosts a two-day Open House prior to the Festival. This is a smaller event and a great opportunity to meet the kumquat growers in person.
St. Joseph is the Kumquat Capital of the World
Held in nearby St. Joseph at the Kumquat Growers Packinghouse, local growers welcome guests, discuss the origin and history of the kumquat, tips for growing the fruit, while providing tours of the packing house where the fruit is processed and shipped.
Ride through the kumquat groves on a tram tour
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.
Tours and event schedule is subject to change so make sure to check their Kumquat Growers official website for the latest info.
Kumquat season is from November through March
While In Dade City …
This unhurried, laid-back Florida town with immense southern charm combines history, hospitality and farm-to-table cuisine to deliver visitors a tasty dose of authentic Florida. It’s truly one of our favorite destinations.
Historic Dade City Courthouse
Whether you experience Dade City during the festival or after the event, there are some things you won’t want to miss.
The centerpiece of the town square is the classic 1909 revival-style beautifully restored courthouse. On the National Register of Historic Places, the courthouse’s neo-classical dome and its clock proudly proclaim the city as the County seat.
Downtown Dade City is known for its antique shops
Kumquat Refrigerator Pie
Historic downtown Dade City is also the place to take advantage of the excellent restaurants. Consider starting your gastronomic tour at a local classic, Lunch on Limoges. This southern restaurant, gift shop and women’s clothing shop offers chalk-board menu items with a southern flair as ladies lunch and catch up on the town news. The gastronomic display of cakes and pies including the seasonal kumquat cake will tempt anyone who loves old-fashioned, homemade desserts.
Lunch on Limoges is a classic for good southern food
Consider starting your gastronomic tour at a local classic, Lunch on Limoges. This southern restaurant, gift shop and women’s clothing shop offers chalk-board menu items such as Pecan Chicken, Pecan Grouper, or their signature Chicken Salad, plus an array of sumptuous, seasonal desserts.
Kafe Kokopelli is another local favorite. Once a Model T salesroom for the Florida Motor Company, the restaurant is adorned with old Florida relics, photos and art. Chef Steven Queen offers a sumptuous dining menu including local Florida favorites of fried green tomato napoleon, fried gator, catfish sandwich and mixed organic salads.
Another favorite, off the square, especially for down-home cooking, is Steph’s Southern Soul Restaurant (14519 5th St.) with a local fresh menu of fried chicken, meatloaf, ribs, greens and fresh fruit desserts. Dade City (and nearby communities) most definitely serves up a cornucopia of good food.
Dade City Pioneer Museum & Village
And for some fascinating history on the area head north of Dade City to the Pioneer Florida Museum & Village. This walking village portrays a complete real-life look at Florida pioneer “Cracker” living. Actual buildings, many saved from demolition, were brought to this site to create a living history exhibit. Visitors can experience the wide range of old Florida life through this experience while walking into Florida’s past.
Joy-Lan Drive-In Theatre in Dade City
At night, Dade City is home to one of just a few remaining drive-in movie theatres in the Sunshine State. The Joy- Lan screen is the largest digital screen in Pasco County and shows first-run movies. The refreshment center is authentically decorated with photos of their staff and guests over the years. You won’t want to miss a night out at the movies … old school style.
Lunch on Limoges homemade Kumquat Cake
All it takes is one interesting small fruit, a down-home festival, farm-to-table dining mixed with small town charm, and you’ll have all of the ingredients for an authentic Florida adventure in Dade City.
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