The Waste Not, Want Not Challenge, and Why It Matters (Kumquat Edition)

“You are not actually going to use all of those kumquats, are you? You’re nuts!” My mother is right, I am nuts. Or lately, more of a fruitcake (har har).

We were staring at her neighbor’s spindly kumquat tree, not much taller than myself, which was covered in tiny golden kumquats. This neighbor is not much for kumquats, apparently, and most of the kumquats go uneaten. They are, however, more than happy to share, for which I'm most grateful! 

“Yep. Yes, I am,” I said stubbornly. 

I’m a Taurus, born during a thunderstorm: No kumquat left behind.


I have really supportive people in my life, but not all of them understand what goes on on Compost and Cava. I got a lot of questions about the Sour Orange Waste Not, Want Not Challenge. I could go on about why this challenge is so important in terms of lifestyle, but I’d rather tell you about kumquat ice cream. 

Here’s why the Waste Not, Want Not Challenge Matters:

  • Food is precious, and we forget that when we have plenty (925 million people are hungry worldwide).
  • Food miles matter.
  • Agriculture takes a massive toll on the environment and animal welfare, so wasted food is terrible.
  • Connecting with your food makes an impact, psychologically. Trust me, if you’ve slaved away over a basket of sour oranges for a week, you are going to lick that marmalade jar when it’s done. 
  • Break the cycle of excess. We throw things away constantly simply because we are unfamiliar (I didn’t know where to even start with sour oranges).

Take the challenge! Next time you see an opportunity, challenge yourself to use every bit of whatever excess food you've purchased, been given or stumbled on. I'm sure it's much easier with tomatoes. 

Ok, so what’s a kumquat, first of all?


Kumquats are basically nature’s wild citrus party girl: the peels are sweet, the fruit is sour.

Read that again. Yup, the peels are sweet. So you eat the entire fruit, just pop the miniature citrus in your mouth and carry on. You’ll see them in the grocery store on occasion, and you should definitely try them. They’re sweet, they’re sour, and the hit of citrus oil will make your mouth tingle. I love them. 

Here’s the tree:


Unremarkable, right?

And how much food could this one little tree generate? Why is this worth it, you ask.

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By the numbers, here’s how much food this tree generated (personal recipes coming in the following days, found recipes linked to below): 

Total (usage broken down below): 37 cups of kumquats

2 cups kumquats eaten raw

8 cups kumquats in Kumquat Chutney

8 cups kumquats in Spiced Kumquat Ice Cream

7 cups kumquats in Kumquat Limoncello and Kumquat Liquor

4 cups kumquats in Kumquat Fennel Salad Dressing

2 cups kumquats in Kumquat Upside Down Cake

4 cups in Kumquat Marmalade

2 cups in Kumquat Tangine



I don’t even know if I want to SAY the word “kumquat” or see citrus ever again… except that I got another (small) basket of beautiful sour oranges again on my way back up to Charleston from Florida. 

But y’all. Think about how much FOOD that is. We had a 3-course meal at my parents' house for 8 people, and kumquat was a primary ingredient in every single dish. We gave some of the food away, froze some, and I tried to make things that had a shelf life so they would last. There are tons of recipes for what to do with about 10 fresh kumquats, but the situation is a little different when you’re dealing with hundreds and trying not to waste them. Fortunately, they are absolutely delicious. 

One tree.

More than 37 cups of fresh vitamin-rich citrus. 

Imagine if we all took food this seriously. It would change the world.

Next up: Spiced Kumquat Ice Cream