Corfu’s kumquat craze
We thought we knew what to expect from Corfu: lovely beaches, relaxed attitudes, and all the dolmades we could eat. However, there was one unexpected delight in Corfu. Kumquats!
I tasted my first kumquat this year and was instantly hooked. Kumquats aren’t often found in Serbia, but a friend somehow found them and offered them to me at the end of a meal. I picked up the grape-sized citrus fruit and popped one, whole, into my mouth. The rind was a bit sour, but the inside was a delicious mixture of sweet and tart. Where had these delicious goodies been all my life? All too soon, kumquat season ended and I was left with visions of buying them at a D.C. Whole Foods for $10 a pound.
Kumquats are often found in Asia or South Africa, but Corfu received its first trees in the early 1900s. The plant thrived in its new terrain. Today, Corfu is one of the only places in Europe that has achieved “mass kumquat cultivation.” Sounds like an awesome band name. You’re welcome.
Kumquat season was over in Corfu, but the tiny tart treats are preserved as candy and liqueur. We stopped by a shop in Corfu’s old town for a taste test. Though most of the shops here seem to be selling the same things, we were drawn in by this store’s focus on kumquats and their less-cheesy bottles. Plus, isn’t the shopkeeper adorable?
The candied kumquats were fantastic. The sugar heightened the kumquat’s mix of sweet and tart, making it an easy, if not healthy, way to enjoy the fruit year-round. We picked up a box for Muz’s office as I kept sneaking samples. The proprietor then asked us if we wanted to try the kumquat liqueur. Lady, does the Pope wear a big hat? We played it cool, though. Muz waited a solid three seconds before he said yes.
There were several kinds of liqueur available, but we only tasted two. After the shopkeeper learned we liked rakija she dismissed the first two because she thought we would find them “too sweet.” The third bottle from the left was so sweet that I wondered how the other liqueurs didn’t induce diabetic comas. The last one, with the crystals inside, had the mix of bitter/tart/sweet that I like in the kumquat’s original form. And let’s face it, it was also the prettiest bottle.
It was also the most expensive one. As Muz scowled at my “champagne tastes” the woman told us that we could refill the bottle with vodka when it’s empty (When? Five years from now?) and still enjoy something similar. Aha! I insisted it was the more economical choice. A Real Housewife has to think of finances, you know. We purchased a small bottle, secure in the knowledge that my crush on Corfu–and kumquats–could continue in the comfort of our Belgrade home.