Kumquats are rich in Dade City history
The nation's largest producer of kumquats is located right in the heart of Dade City.
The Kumquat Growers is celebrating 50 years of growing the sweet and tart fruit for thousands of people.
So what is a kumquat?
"It's called the golden gem of citrus."
They're little gold fruit and a close relative of citrus. You eat them skin and all.
"It's just a unique fruit. It's very healthy, you eat the whole thing. You eat the seeds, the peel, the whole enchilada. If you want to swallow those seeds, you don't have to swallow them. You can spit them out. If you chew all your food thoroughly through then it's easy to do," explains Greg Gude, GM of the Kumquat Growers.
They are 19 different products made from kumquats, and that doesn't include beer and wine.
Gude tells ABC Action News that the kumquats were originally used for packaging in citrus.
"Then they started loading train cars in Blanton and out in San Antonio full of kumquats. And they were shipped up and down the rails because they were shipped to fruit pack, processing packaging houses all over and it grew to where they were all over the state," explains Gude.
Gude says, "This area here just for some reasons seem to be the place that they grew best. They got early in late October, early November, so they were able to harvest them and get them to the places for Thanksgiving. And then they had the Christmas rush. And then they had Chinese New Year's which is in February."
The kumquat trees bloom for five months. So during the summer, they're growing and will be picked in the winter. They can withstand temperatures down to about 17 degrees, making them perfect to grow in Florida.
For Gude, being part of the family business is special.
"It is so cool to be doing something that my father and my grandfather, there's pictures of my dad that we have in a little shed right behind, right beside the house here. They used to crate them up and then they'd take them down to San Antonio and put them on the train. It's, it's great to be in a business that is you know, I'm kind of the second generation in it. But I've been involved in I was 13 when it started. So I've been involved with it from the beginning," says Gude.
For the past few years, Gude and his team have been working to get the trees back up to a healthy 17 feet. They were hit with a type of disease in 2015.
"We're still fighting it, we're still we've changed our methods and how we're growing trees. We're struggling to get alive to get back to where we can supply everybody around. We were able to do some commercial shipping to Publix this past season," says Gude.
For this area, the Kumquat Festival is usually a big hit, drawing in thousands of people.
"Then they created a Kumquat Festival, which drew more people into Dade City because they found the quaint little town, you know, that has this great big Kumquat Festival every year. And it's just a one-day event," says Gude.
The Kumquat Growers is also partnering with Benedetto's in Land O' Lakes.
Ben Pumo, Chef and Owner of Benedetto's is growing vegetables there and utilizing kumquats in dishes.
Pumo and Gude are cousins, continuing the traditions of their families.
"We wanted to do the farm-to-table trend with a restaurant so we started growing or having our own garden here in Dade City. So we grow our own veggies for the restaurant at the same time, we want to regrow kumquats. I mean, that year, right when we started doing the garden, they had a freeze up here. And we planted kumquat trees at the same time. So we were re-growing with Kumquat Growers, as well. So we want to carry on tradition," says Pumo.
"We make all kinds of cool pies with and we've thought of entrees with the kumquats. We can't eat kumquats. I started candy and this year, so we can either come quiet and that candy kumquat over some kumquat pie in that graham cracker crust. Oh, we're calling for our bank because that's so good," explains Pumo.
Truly bringing the farm of Dade City to Land O' Lakes.
You can read more about the Kumquat Growers by clicking here.