Kumquat vs. Calamansi

Written by Elizabeth Bradshaw
Published: November 15, 2022
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Kumquat and calamansi are small, dense shrubs or trees which produce spherical citrus fruits. Kumquats produce spherical orange citrus, with orange pulp, and while calamansi bears similar fruit, it is often eaten unripe and still green. Rough textured bark, prolific thorns, and glossy green leaves are characteristic of both trees. However, the fruit of kumquat and calamansi trees, have many differences in flavor, appearance, and culinary use.

Comparison of Kumquat and Calamansi

KumquatCalamansi
Plant ClassificationC. japonicaCitrofortunella x microcarpa
DescriptionThe kumquat is a small, broadleaf perennial evergreen tree with dark green leaves and clusters of white flowers appearing in spring. Kumquat fruit is a small edible sphere, similar in appearance and taste to an orange but about the size of a large olive. Trees can reach 25 feet in maturity.Calamansi is a small growing tree or shrub, maximum of 20 feet in height, with a rough thorny trunk, waxy dark green leaves, and small white or purple flowers. Recognizable by wing-like appendages on leaf stalks. The fruit of the calamansi tree is the shape and size of a lime, pale green at first, turning deep orange when fully ripe.   
OriginThe kumquat tree is native to Southern China, where it has been cultivated for centuries. Introduced to Europe in the 1840s and shortly thereafter to the US, the trees are grown almost exclusively in Florida. Hardier and more fruitful than orange.Calamansi is a hybrid of the kumquat and mandarin orange, native to the Philippines, Borneo, and regions of Southern China.  
UsesOrnamental kumquat trees thrive in container pots making the miniature bush an ideal patio plant. The fruit is delicate and decorative with a sweet, tart taste. Kumquats make excellent jams and are often used in relish, preserves, and liquors.The calamansi’s sour taste lends itself to jams and preserves, and the whole fruit is used in cooking and as a marinade, often in its unripe state. Calamansi juice is a common condiment or dip for spring rolls and other savory dishes.

Kumquat vs. Calamansi: Nomenclature

The word kumquat derives from the Cantonese word kamkwat, which means golden mandarin orange.  Kumquat is often mistaken for quince. However, quince fruit is larger, pear-shaped, and pale green in color. A common alternate spelling of the fruit is cumquat.  

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Calamansi fruit is called many different names around the globe. It is also known as the Philippine lime or Philippine lemon, lemonsito, and musk orange. Calamansi is known as the Chinese orange or acid orange in the United States.

Kumquat vs. Calamans: Description

Kumquat trees have glossy deep green leaves. Evergreen branches form a dense, drooping, crown-shaped canopy. The tree’s branches are thin but sturdy, with fissured bark of brown or grey. Clusters of fragrant five-petaled flowers bud in spring. Fruiting trees are heavy, with hundreds or even thousands of small orange fruits.  

Kumquat tree covered with ripe fruit

Kumquat trees have glossy deep green leaves, and bear tiny orange citrus fruits.

©iStock.com/ChiccoDodiFC

The leaves of the calamansi tree are small, smooth, and oblong-shaped. Mostly green, the leaves often have a yellow-tinged border around the outer edge. Too little sunshine or soil deficiencies can turn the whole leaf yellow. Flowers are small, fresh-scented, five-petaled, and white or purple. The calamansi tree can grow up to 25 feet tall.  

Full frame image of a branch of a calamansi tree branch with bright green leaves. Three dark green Calamansi fruits are hanging from the branch.

The leaves of the calamansi tree are small, smooth, and oblong-shape.

©Juriah Mosin/Shutterstock.com

Kumquat vs. Calamansi: Classification

Although the exact taxonomy of the kumquat tree is disputed and theories of origin are somewhat controversial, kumquats are classified into the subfamily Aurantioidea, family Rutaceae and genus Fortunella. The genus contains six species. Among the most popular varieties of kumquat are nagami, marumi and meiwa.

Also from the family Rutaceae, calamansi is a hybrid between kumquat and mandarin orange.

Kumquat vs. Calamansi: Uses

Kumquat

Due to its sweet and tangy taste, kumquat is most often used in preserves, relishes, chutneys, or as a marinade for meat, chicken, or fish. Sliced raw into salads, served candied with sugar, or as a fresh ingredient in cakes, pies, and sweets, kumquats may be added in place of any dessert fruit like dates and raisins. Kumquat slices make fetching edible decorations and garnish for cupcakes, fruit pies, and salads.    

Calamansi

Calamansi is a traditional ingredient in Filipino cuisine. The tree is useful in many ways.  Crushed calamansi leaves may be used in traditional and herbal medicine. The pulp of the fruit is a regular addition to cosmetics, disinfectant, soap, and deodorant. Calamansi seeds contain pectin and may be used as a thickening agent in food. Citric acid obtained from calamansi is used in the production of perfume. Calamansi is also known to relieve throat aches. Its juice has myriad uses, including removing stains from fabric!

Kumquat vs. Calamansi: Flavor

Kumquat fruits have a sweet, slightly sour flavor, resembling a cross between an orange and a grapefruit. The pulp is juicy and succulent.

Conversely, the flesh of the calamansi fruit tastes much more sour, tangy, tropical, and sharp. Akin to a cross between a lime and an orange, with thin, tender, edible skin that is sweet. Unripe calamansi is used just as often as the ripened fruit to infuse a unique concentrated lemon-lime flavor into meat, poultry, and cocktails. 

Kumquat vs. Calamansi: Recipes

Kumquat fruit is best enjoyed ripe, fresh, and straight off the bush. Its tangy, citrusy taste cannot be rivaled. It makes a great jam, marmalade, or chutney owning to naturally occurring pectin in the seeds, which thicken and set the preserves.

Use calamansi in the kitchen in place of lemon or lime. Baste chicken or seafood in its tart juice, queeze a wedge of calamansi over salads as a sharp dressing, or add a slice to flavor tea or water as with lemon. Juice of the calamansi makes a refreshing drink that is often mixed with honey, ginger, or sugar and served both hot and cold.

A tall clear glass filled with yellow-green Calamansi juice with a thin, circular slice of calamansi floating in it. The glass is on a wooden table that also contains a dozen or so whole bright green calamansi fruits.

Calamansi juice makes a refreshing drink that is often mixed with honey, ginger, or sugar.

©Nokuro/Shutterstock.com

Kumquat vs. Calamansi: Nutritional Value

This tiny fruit packs a punch for its nutritional value. At 90 calories per serving, kumquats and high in vitamin C, fiber, iron, and B vitamins. Full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds and low on the glycaemic index in combination with their high-water content makes kumquats an excellent snack. They are also cholesterol and fat-free, may aid digestion, and, bea=cause they are complex carbohydrates, you may feel fuller for longer, staving off hunger pains     

Each calamansi fruit contains only 40 calories. A great source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin C, which boosts collagen production and promotes immune system functions, calamansi contains many more essential minerals and nutrients.

Kumquat vs. Calamansi: Origin

The kumquat tree is native to Southern China, with mentions of cultivation in ancient texts as far back as the 12th century. Introduced to Europe in 1846 and brought to the Americas soon after, the tree enjoys popularity as an ornamental patio plant and a plentiful source of citrus.

Breeding the mandarin orange with the kumquat resulted in the calamansi. Though it originated in the Philippines, calamansi is presently cultivated in India, Malaysia, China, and the United States (Florida). In China, calamansi is crucial to the Hainan Island region’s crop economy.     

Kumquat vs. Calamansi: Planting

Kumquat

Growing kumquat trees from seed can be done, but its time consuming, and likely why purchasing a kumquat sapling is much more common. They prefer sunlight and well-drained soil. Ensure the kumquat is not in shade and plant in a hole five times wider than the root ball and just as deep. Wait until after frost to plant saplings and leave 6 feet between trees for optimum growing room. Water the soil around the base of the tree in the morning, fertilize twice a year, and prune branches upwards to form the popular crown shape.

Calamansi

The calamansi tree thrives in full to partial sun in loamy soil. Plant saplings at least 16 inches deep in moist soil. Mulching the tree with around 4 inches of leaves and organic material will help retain moisture. Temperature and sunlight will affect the tree’s productivity. Calamansi grows just as well in patio pots and planters.   

Kumquat vs. Calamansi: Facts

Kumquats contain naturally occurring pectin, a dietary fiber that binds and sets fruit in jelly and jam. Beware, too much pectin can produce a laxative effect!s.

Both kumquat and calamansi trees are autogamous or self-pollinating, meaning the flower contains both male and female sexual characteristics.

Kumquat trees, just like most other citrus trees, live to be around 50 years old. Beginning in year two, they will produce copious amounts of citrus fruits many times a year. 

Calamansi has antibacterial qualities. A natural toner, calamansi extract can balance the skin’s natural oils and may aid in the treatment of acne and other dermal conditions.  

Fruit from citrus trees, including the kumquat and calamansi, is toxic to cats. Citrus poisoning occurs upon ingesting essential oil extracts found in the fruits, such as limonene, and linalool. Luckily, this misfortune is usually mild and rarely fatal.

Kumquat vs. Calamansi: Overview

Kumquat and calamansi trees are similar in many ways. Both are smaller fruit bearing citrus trees that thrive in sunlight, produce abundant crops many times per year and make great decorative patio or indoor plant.

Whatever the differences that exist between kumquat and calamansi trees, both produce sweet refreshing citrus that taste great, deliver unrivalled nutrition and are sure to quench your thirst!  

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/bergamont


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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer based in the west of Ireland. When not tending to my messy, overgrown vegetable garden, you'll find me trawling the beaches for flotsam and jetsam, campervanning in some remote location or writing about sustainability and the environment in our tiny home by the sea. Favourite plant: sea holly, favourite fruit: gooseberry, favourite flower: the wild purple orchid that blooms in bog and brush all over the county.

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