Visit Dade City, Home of the Kumquat Festival
Author: Authentic Florida
Date: February 10, 2018 12:00 am
Category: Things to Do
Type: Festivals and Events
Location: 14112 8th St., Dade City, Florida 33525
If You Go
For more information:
Steph's Southern Soul Restaurant (14519 5th Street)
Headlining Sponsor: Florida Hospital Zephyrhills
Florida's Dade City celebrates its “Ode to the Kumquat” during its annual Kumquat Festival. The Festival honors its distinction as the world’s leading supplier of the tasty petite fruit.
Amidst green hills and pastures an hour north of Tampa and a little over an hour west of Orlando, you'll find groves of Florida’s “golden gem," known as the kumquat. Held the last Saturday in January, participants join in the fun and admission is free.
Dade City Florida Kumquat Festival, courtesy Dade City Chamber
So what exactly is a kumquat? Orange in color, this small bite-sized fruit can be eaten – skin and all, providing a flavorful, pungent sweet and sour taste. It is a member of the citrus family and often baked into desserts and used as a glaze or flavoring for main dishes.
Freshly picked Florida Kumquats
The kumquat is believed to be a native of China, and has long been a symbol of prosperity during the Chinese New Year celebrations. It was brought to the U.S. where two species are grown, the Nagami and the Meiwa. The more common Nagami (oval shaped) kumquat is tart and ideal for marmalades and jellies, while the Meiwa (round shaped), is sweeter and ideal for snacking, lacking the tartness of a Nagami.
Slice kumquats in threes, then remove the seeds
While consumed skin and all, the peel is the sweetest part of the fruit and the sourness comes from the kumquat pulp of seeds and juice. Many insist the best way to savor this dainty fruit is by removing the stem, cutting it into small slices, and eliminating the seeds. While others prefer it whole.
The Kumquat Festival
Florida Kumquat Pie, courtesy Dade City Chamber
Held in downtown Dade City, the Kumquat Festival is a homegrown family event that provides fruit tastings of every imaginable combination including kumquat pies, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, marinades, vinaigrettes and salsa. And there is plenty of fruit to purchase for creating your own signature dishes at home.
Take home fresh kumquats from the Festival
Hundreds of vendors and lots of sponsors come together to make this a fun filled day of celebration as local entertainment kicks up the celebration giving the event a special homespun feel. Some of the highlights in the past were the Strawberry Express Cloggers, the Cypress Creek Dixieland Band and church groups that perform Christian, Soul, Pop and Gospel music. And you won't want to miss Mr. and Ms. Kumquat, the arts and crafts exhibition, the antique car show and the downtown storefronts dressed in what else, but “kumquat themes.”
The Kumquat Growers Open House: Best Kept Secret
Kumquat Grower and expert, Frank Gude
But many believe the best-kept secret occurs before the Festival. The Kumquat Growers Cooperative hosts a two-day Open House each day, prior to the Festival. To avoid the festival crowds consider this smaller event and meet the kumquat growers in person.
St. Joseph is the Kumquat Capital of the World
Held in nearby St. Joseph at the Kumquat Growers Packinghouse, local growers welcome guests, discuss the origin and history of the kumquat, tips for growing the fruit, while providing tours of the packing house where the fruit is processed and shipped.
Ride through the kumquat groves on a tram tour
To experience the agricultural side, tram tours take visitors on a ride through the kumquat grove as growers explain the nuances of growing. Kumquats, including tasty baked treats and gift items, are for sale and lunch is included.
Kumquat season is from November through March
While In Dade City
This unhurried, laid-back Florida town with immense southern charm combines history, hospitality and farm to table cuisine to deliver a tasty dose of authentic Florida.
Historic Dade City Courthouse
Whether you experience Dade City during the festival or after the event, there are some things you won’t want to miss. The centerpiece of the town square is the classic 1909 revival-style beautifully restored courthouse. On the National Register of Historic Places, the courthouse’s neoclassical dome and its clock proudly proclaim the city as the County seat.
Downtown Dade City is known for its antique shops
Adjacent to the square, visitors can browse the local antique shops including Antiques on Main, specializing in folk art and primitive antique treasures, Ivy Cottage Antiques & Wine Shop. Charming local gift shops include The Dade City Magnolia House and Lori Ann’s and for another quaint experience, stop in at Quilts on Plum Lane.
Kumquat Refrigerator Pie
Historic downtown Dade City is also the place to take advantage of the excellent restaurants. Consider starting your gastronomic tour at a local classic, Lunch on Limoges. This southern restaurant, gift shop and women’s clothing shop offers chalk-board menu items with a southern flair as ladies lunch and catch up on the town news. The gastronomic display of cakes and pies including the seasonal kumquat cake will tempt anyone who loves old-fashioned, homemade desserts.
Lunch on Limoges is a classic for good southern food
Consider starting your gastronomic tour at a local classic, Lunch on Limoges. This southern restaurant, gift shop and women’s clothing shop offers chalk-board menu items such as Pecan Chicken, Pecan Grouper, or their signature Chicken Salad, plus an array of sumptuous, seasonal desserts.
Kafe Kokopelli is another local favorite. Once a Model T salesroom for the Florida Motor Company, the restaurant is adorned with old Florida relics, photos and art. Chef Steven Queen offers a sumptuous dining menu including local Florida favorites of fried green tomato napoleon, fried gator, catfish sandwich and mixed organic salads.
Another favorite off the square, especially for down-home cooking, is Steph’s Southern Soul Restaurant (14519 5th St.) with a local fresh menu of fried chicken, meatloaf, ribs, greens and fresh fruit desserts. Dade City (and nearby communities) most definitely serves up a cornucopia of good food.
Dade City Pioneer Museum & Village
And for some fascinating history on the area head north of Dade City to the Pioneer Florida Museum & Village. This walking village portrays a complete real-life look at Florida pioneer “Cracker” living. Actual buildings, many saved from demolition, were brought to this site to create a living history exhibit. Visitors can experience the wide range of old Florida life through this experience while walking into Florida’s past.
San Antonio's St. Charles Inn Bed & Breakfast
For overnight accommodations consider the charming St. Charles Inn Bed & Breakfast in nearby San Antonio. Innkeepers Ted and Anne Stephens, with the help of Ted's father and their sons, spent five years restoring the 1913 St. Charles Hotel. Originally constructed by Charles Barthle to provide lodging for railway passengers journeying to or from Tampa, the building has been transformed from complete disrepair by the Stephens family.
St. Charles Inn Bed & Breakfast
It is now a top quality accommodation bringing southern hospitality and comfort to the San Antonio area. Outdoor sitting porches, beautiful gardens, exquisite antiques and Southern Living décor make this a stop well worth your visit. And the continental breakfast is a gourmet’s delight.
Lunch on Limoges homemade Kumquat Cake
All it takes is one interesting small fruit, a down-home festival, farm to table dining mixed with small town charm, and you’ll have all of the ingredients for an authentic Florida adventure in Dade City.
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