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Kumquats are citrus fruits of Chinese and Japanese origin, cultivated in Italy often only for ornamental purposes; the botanical name is fortunella, and the genus counts some species, even if in Italy Fortunella margarita, with oval fruits, is by far the most widespread. The kumquats are evergreen, slow-growing, well-branched shrubs, which over time can become small trees, 4-5 meters high at most. The stems are thin and often arched, and may have small hard and sharp spines.
In spring and summer it produces small white flowers, very fragrant, which often occur in small bunches, at the leaf axil; the flowers are followed by some fruits, even a few dozen on each single plant, of small dimensions. As we said before, Fortunella margarita has oval fruits, 3-5 cm long, light orange or yellow; Fortunella japonica on the other hand produces roundish fruits, similar to tiny oranges.
The fruits of kumquat have a poorly juicy and often sour flesh, and a very aromatic and sweet peel, so they are consumed whole. They are eaten raw, but they are also very appreciated for the preparation of jams; kumquats are excellent for preparing candied fruit, with the whole fruit used.
Kumquats are decidedly more rustic plants than other citrus fruits, more widespread in cultivation in Italy; they can easily withstand winter temperatures close to -10 ° C, even for prolonged periods of time. This is because, while lemons and oranges continue their vegetative cycle even in winter, the kumquats ripen in the autumn and winter months, but suspend the production of flowers and buds, thus entering a period of semi-vegetative rest.
They are grown in a sunny place, or partially shaded, well ventilated, and with a rich and soft soil, not excessively alkaline.
Fortunella margarita cultivation
Very often kumquats are cultivated in pots, also because the small size of the fruits allows grafting these fruits on miniature trees, even 50-80 cm high.
In fact these citrus fruits would also lend themselves well to cultivation in the open ground, in most of the peninsula. They need watering from April to September-October, while it is possible to suspend watering during the cold months.
At the beginning of spring we spread at the foot of the mature manure shrub, or a slow release granular fertilizer, specific for citrus fruits.
Although it is a rustic plant, in areas with decidedly stiff winters, it is good to cover the plant in winter with non-woven fabric, or place it in a sunny flowerbed, close to the house, which protects it from the winter wind.
Kumquat - Fortunella margarita: Pests and diseases
They are rather resistant plants that can resist even to sudden changes in climate. In the case of cultivation in warm and low humidity areas, the Kumquats can be attacked by mealybugs and red spider mites. To eliminate the problem, which is more common in potted specimens, it is possible to use special insecticide products, based on pyrethrum. To eradicate the red spider it may be sufficient to increase the degree of humidity, a factor not tolerated by these parasites. Plants of this variety may also show signs of ferric chlorosis due to poorly nutritious soil. For this reason it is good, in the season from spring to summer, to intervene regularly with the supply of fertilizer.