Kiwifruit, also known as the Chinese gooseberry, is a small, fuzzy fruit with a sweet and tangy taste that has become a popular addition to many people's diets. While originally grown and cherished in China for its health benefits, the kiwi is now cultivated internationally for its delicious, tropical flavors.
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What is a Kiwifruit?
While there are many kiwifruit cultivars, we’ll focus on the kiwi we all know and love: Actinidia deliciosa.
A kiwifruit, also known simply as a kiwi, is a small, oval-shaped fruit with a fuzzy brown exterior and bright green flesh inside. It is a type of berry and is considered a highly nutritious fruit due to its high levels of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and antioxidants.
Kiwifruit is native to China and Taiwan, where it was initially known as the Chinese gooseberry. It was later introduced to California and New Zealand in the early 20th century and became popularly known as kiwifruit by growers there. Today, kiwifruit is grown in many parts of the world, including the United States (especially California), Italy, Greece, Iran, and Chile.
Kiwifruit is a highly distinctive fruit with fuzzy brown skin covering a bright green interior flesh studded with tiny black seeds. It thrives in warm climates and isn’t hearty enough to survive harsh winters. The flesh is soft and juicy, with a tangy-sweet flavor often compared to a combination of strawberry, banana, and pineapple.
The History of Kiwifruit
The kiwifruit originated in China and was initially known as “yang tao.” Then it was given the nickname “Chinese Gooseberries” upon its introduction to New Zealand in 1940 when a teacher named Mary Isabel Fraser brought it.
In 1959, the name was changed to “kiwifruit” in honor of the national bird of New Zealand, which shares similarities with the fruit in its small, brown, and fuzzy appearance.
In New Zealand, where the fruit is commercially cultivated, kiwifruit is a source of national pride and a significant contributor to the country’s economy. Te Puke, a town in the Bay of Plenty region, is known as the “Kiwifruit Capital of the World.”
In China, where the fruit originated, kiwifruit has a long history of medicinal use and was believed to be beneficial for digestion, respiratory health, and immune function.
What Does a Kiwi Taste Like?
When eaten raw, the flesh of a kiwi is juicy and refreshing, with a flavor often described as a combination of sweet, tart, and slightly acidic. The texture is also unique, with tiny, edible seeds throughout the flesh that has a somewhat soft, almost creamy consistency.
When cooked, you can use kiwi in a variety of ways. It is often added to fruit salads, smoothies, or topping for yogurt or oatmeal. Cooking can alter the flavor of kiwi, making it sweeter and softer in texture. However, kiwi is not commonly cooked in the same way as other fruits like apples or pears, as it tends to break down quickly when exposed to heat.
How to Tell When Kiwifruit is Ripe
Here are some characteristics that indicate that the kiwi is ripe:
Texture: The kiwi’s skin should be slightly soft to the touch but not mushy. It is yet to be ripe if it is too hard, and if it is too soft or mushy, it may be overripe.
Color: A ripe kiwi will be a uniform medium brown color with no green patches or signs of discoloration.
Fragrance: A ripe kiwi will have a sweet and aromatic scent.
Varieties of Kiwifruit
There are many more kiwifruit varieties beyond the green kiwi one mentioned here. Here are just a few of the most popular ones:
Fuzzy Kiwis (A. deliciosa) – This one is widely regarded as the national fruit of China. Fuzzy kiwis feature brownish, russet-colored skin covered with brown hair all over their surface. Its juicy flesh is typically bright green, although it can also be yellow, brown, or white, and is known for its pleasant taste despite often being quite acidic.
Golden Kiwis (A. chinensis) – Their skin has less hair, is bronze or gold, and the flesh is a vibrant yellow. They’re generally sweeter and less tart than fuzzy kiwis – think something between strawberry and mango.
Hardy Kiwis (A. arguta) – These are smaller than fuzzy or golden kiwis, with smooth, edible skin. They’re often called “baby kiwis” and can be eaten in one bite. Their flesh is bright green and can resist low temperatures (unlike regular kiwis). They also contain other varieties – Geneva, Dumbarton oaks, and Issai.
Arctic Kiwis (A. kolomikta) – These are similar in size to hardy kiwis but have a unique look thanks to their variegated white and pink leaves. The fruit is usually green and has a tart, tangy flavor. They are the smallest variety and thrive even in frigid climates.
Red Kiwis (A. melanandra) – These kiwis are a new variety still being developed and have distinctive red flesh inside. They’re currently quite rare and not widely available.
Can I Eat Raw Kiwifruit?
Yes, you can eat raw kiwifruit. Kiwifruit is often consumed raw by cutting it in half and scooping out the flesh with a spoon or by peeling it and slicing it into pieces. The fuzzy skin of the kiwifruit is also edible, although some people prefer to remove it before eating.
Cooking with Kiwifruit
To prepare a kiwifruit for cooking, start by rinsing it thoroughly under cool water. Next, trim off both ends with a knife, then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. You can also use a vegetable peeler to remove the fuzzy skin, but it’s unnecessary as the skin is edible and adds a nice texture to some recipes.
Kiwifruit is native to New Zealand and is used in various traditional dishes such as kiwifruit chutney, kiwifruit salsa, and kiwifruit pavlova (a dessert made with meringue, whipped cream, and fresh fruit). It’s also widely used in Chinese and Southeast Asian Cuisine in fruit salads, smoothies, and as a garnish for savory dishes.
Here are a few specific examples of dishes that use kiwifruit:
Kiwifruit and Yogurt Breakfast Bowl: Combine Greek yogurt, sliced kiwifruit, granola, and honey in a bowl for a healthy and delicious breakfast.
Kiwi Smoothie: Blend frozen kiwifruit, banana, spinach, almond milk, and honey for a refreshing and nutritious smoothie.
Kiwi Salsa: Dice kiwifruit and mix with chopped tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, and salt for a tangy and flavorful salsa that pair well with fish or grilled meats.
How to Store Kiwifruit
Refrigerating ripe kiwis is recommended to prevent spoilage, but unripe kiwis do not require refrigeration.
It is best to keep unripe kiwis at room temperature and away from direct sunlight until they ripen, which typically takes a few days. Once the kiwis are ripe, they can and should be stored in the refrigerator to prolong their shelf life, but it is essential to keep them separate from other fruits that produce ethylene gas, as this can shorten their life.
Ripe kiwis last up to ten days in the refrigerator and up to one week at room temperature. Unripe kiwis can last up to 1 month in the fridge.
Kiwis can also be frozen and stored in a freezer bag or airtight container for up to three months.
Health Benefits of Kiwis
Kiwis are known to offer tremendous health benefits. They contain few calories, fat, and proteins but have a lot of fiber, making them great for your digestive system. Carotenoids like lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta carotene in kiwis also help protect against heart problems.
They are incredibly high in vitamin C, making them the perfect aid in protecting cells from oxidative damage, improving immune function, and increasing collagen production. Kiwis also have potassium, vitamin K, copper, vitamin E, and folate, significantly boosting your immune health.
The high amount of fiber and the presence of the proteolytic enzyme actinidin makes kiwis a great fighter against digestive issues. Lastly, kiwis are known to decrease blood pressure and blood clotting.
It’s important to note that kiwis contain allergens that might be dangerous for some people. So if you have never eaten it before, start with a small amount and look for rashes and hives.
Where to Purchase Kiwifruit
Kiwifruit is generally in season from late fall to early spring, with peak availability in winter.
You can find kiwifruit in the produce section of most grocery stores and supermarkets, typically sold loose or in pre-packaged containers. It may also be available at specialty stores focusing on organic or natural foods. Farmers’ markets may also carry kiwifruit when it is in season.