The Pasco County Commission took a break from its normal routine to pay homage to the history of the humble kumquat and declared kumquat pie as Pasco County’s official pie.
The county board adopted a resolution to make it official, but it also took a few minutes to celebrate the Gude family who has played a prominent role in cultivating the tiny citrus fruit that became the inspiration for the annual Dade City Kumquat Festival.
The resolution, adopted unanimously on Feb. 8, detailed some of that history.
The kumquat fruit first arrived in Pasco in the late 1800s and, over time, the town of St. Joseph became a leader in its production.
That laid the groundwork for the Dade City Kumquat Festival, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in January.
The festival — the only festival of its type in Florida — routinely attracts more than 40,000 people to enjoy Dade City’s quaint downtown and courthouse square, each year.
Greg Gude and his dad, Frank, came to the county board’s meeting and carried an enlarged photograph of Rosemary Gude (Greg’s mom) who created the recipe for Kumquat Refrigerator Pie.
Both Gude men offered some remarks.
Greg Gude explained how kumquats have contributed to Pasco County’s economy for decades.
“We didn’t have a lot of local sales. All of our sales were always abroad, and in the Northeast, and out of the country, even as far over as California,” he said.
“But that money came to Pasco County. And, so it was spent. It was spent by our workers. It was spent by us,” he said, it would go for such things as food, gas and clothing.
Over the years, the kumquat industry has had its share of challenges, Greg Gude said.
There were freezes and disease.
After several freezes in the 1980s, he said, “we lost our identity, in a sense, because we were originally used with leaves, to put into citrus packages and used for decorations.
“We shipped back then probably 30 (30,000) to 50,000 bushels of kumquats. There were three different people that were doing that, before the ’83 freeze.
“Then came citrus canker, which quarantined us, where we could only do the kumquat by the fruit itself,” Greg Gude said.
Fruit stands went out of business, he said.
“After that, we kind of had to create things. We already had marmalades, jellies, jams — stuff like that, chutney, made out of kumquats.
“But my mother (Rosemary Gude) came up with this kumquat pie recipe.
“After a while, we put that recipe in every little container that we shipped. We still today put that inside the container that we sell to Publix,” he said.
Then, when the Dade City Kumquat Festival came along, the pie was a big hit, he said.
“Everybody came to find out what kumquats were all about, meanwhile, they tasted this pie. This pie is a very simple pie, anybody can make it, whether you’re a baker or not, because it’s just doing ingredients,” Greg Gude said.
“We make the pies at our packing house. We sell them to other places and also to individuals who come by and buy the pie and the marmalades and jellies and all of the kumquats, themselves,” he said.
“We appreciate you all recognizing us. It’s been a long, rough industry,” he said, noting the battle continues against the diseases.
He added: “But we also have a bigger demand than we could ever grow. They use it in beers and wines now, and also some ciders. It can be used for all kinds of things,” he said.
His enthusiasm for the tiny fruit is obvious.
“You could take a kumquat and drop it in a glass of water,” he said, interrupting himself. “And, I could spend the next four hours, talking about kumquats.”
Commissioner Ron Oakley said he did business with the kumquat growers for years, purchasing kumquats to use in his citrus shipments.
“We had seven freezes during the ‘80s, which was tough for him, tough for us. We were all dealing in citrus,” Oakley said.
“I don’t know how Greg and his family has held up, to do this. They’ve had an uphill battle, ever since, but you’ve got to commend them for carrying on and keeping this alive.
“It’s just been a great part of our community here,” Oakley said.
Frank Gude shared some more the kumquat industry’s history.
Five families formed the Kumquat Growers association in 1971, and now just the Gudes and Neuhofers remain, he said.
He said it was important to remember the Neuhofers “because they contributed a whole lot to it (the kumquat industry).”
Besides celebrating the role of the kumquat in Pasco, everyone at the meeting was invited to enjoy a slice — a sweet finish to a special agenda item.
Kumquat Refrigerator Pie
- One 9-inch pie crust
- One can condensed milk
- One 8-ounce container of whipped topping
- 2/3 cup of kumquat puree
- ½ cup of lemon juice
Beat the condensed milk with whipped topping. Add lemon juice and beat until thickened. Add kumquat puree. Pour in pie shell and chill for several hours. Garnish with kumquats and mint leaves.
Source: Kumquatgrowers.com (Original recipe by Rosemary Gude)
If you want to find out where to buy a kumquat pie, call 352-588-0544.
Published February 16, 2022