Citrus are at their blessed peak right now, and everywhere you look there are trees weighed down to the ground with fruit that are simply screaming out to be picked - it's almost deafening! One beautiful tree that caught my eye in a nearby front yard was this Nagami cumquat or kumquat (pictured), dripping with fruit, and happily growing in a big container.
One thing I must get straight for the records is that the Nagami cumquat is not a true citrus. Well, it used to be, but then somebody changed the genus to Fortunella (Fortunella margarita 'Nagami'). It hasn’t been totally ousted however and is still considered a close relative – it certainly looks like a member of the citrus group and is generally treated and spoken about in that way.
It’s a very compact tree – will get to three metres tall if you let it – fairly frost hardy, and a mighty producer of small colourful olive shaped fruit. These are eaten skin and all – the peel is quite sweet, but the fruit in the centre is slightly sour, and may cause that ‘just sucked a lemon’ look when you eat them fresh from the tree. Many people find them absolutely delicious when eaten this way. If you like to make preserves, they make an excellent marmalade – one of the best – and when soaked in brandy, they are a magical treat.
This tree grows well in a pot and can be pruned to make an attractive topiary or ‘standard’. Like any potted fruit tree, it needs to be watered regularly and should be fed every 6-8 weeks with a complete organic fertiliser. For more tips on growing citrus in pots, be sure to check out Annette McFarlane’s feature in the latest issue of Organic Gardener magazine – the one with the beautiful lemons on the cover.
First published: June 2011