Slicing Kiwifruit

Kiwifruit (often shortened to kiwi outside of New Zealand), is the edible berry of one of 60 species of woody vine in the family Actinidiaceae. The most common commercial species is Actinidia deliciosa.

Kiwifruit originated in the Yangtze Valley of northern China and Zhejiang Province on the coast of eastern China. Originally called yáng táo, they were considered a delicacy by the great Khans. Chinese farmers cultivated them on a small scale at least 300 years ago, and used them as a tonic for children and for women after childbirth.

An agent for the Royal Horticultural Society, London, collected specimens of yáng táo in 1847. The plants were first exported from Asia as an ornamental vine.

In 1900, Ernest Henry Wilson sent yáng táo seeds gathered in Hubei, China, to Veitch and Sons Nursery in England. Consul-General Levi S. Wilcox sent seeds from Hankou, China, to the United States Department of Agriculture Plant Introduction Field Station at Chico, California in 1904. Mary Isabel Fraser, the principal of Wanganui Girls’ College, who had been visiting mission schools in Yichang, China, brought yáng táo seeds to New Zealand in 1906 and gave them to neighbors. That same year, Alexander Allison, a Wanganui horticulturalist, planted the seeds. The plants at the Veitch and Sons Nursery flourished and bloomed in 1909. When both male and female vines were planted together, they produced fruits, but English growers typically grew only solitary vines as an ornamental arbor vine.

Some of Alexander Allison’s New Zealand vines bore fruits in 1910. The US vines were also fruiting in California in 1910. At first, there was a viable combination of male and female vines. But when seeds were planted from these, the more than 1,300 seedlings then sent out for field trials were almost all male and failed to produce fruit. The USDA dismissed the yáng táo vines as ornamental curiosities. By the 1920s, the fruit, then known as the “Chinese gooseberry,” was a sensation in New Zealand’s garden catalogs. Auckland-based nurseryman Hayward Wright developed his own cultivar in Avondale, New Zealand, around 1924.

Several New Zealand growers raised Chinese gooseberry seedlings and selected the best fruiting types, which were propagated around 1930. Hayward Wright popularized the practice of using scion wood, or grafts, so farmers could know exactly what sex and variety of vine they were splicing onto root stock. Orchardist Jim MacLoughlin made the first commercial planting in 1937 in New Zealand.

By 1940 there were many plantings in New Zealand, one with 200 vines, especially on the eastern coast of the North Island. The Chinese gooseberry fruits were being marketed and were very popular with American servicemen stationed in New Zealand during World War II.

John Pilkington Hudson and others at the agriculture department in Wellington conducted pioneering research into the transportability of Chinese gooseberries, which showed that Hayward Wright’s cultivars could spend months in cold storage with little damage to the quality of the fruit. In 1952, Jim MacLoughlin partnered with the New Zealand Fruit Federation to market and export Chinese gooseberries to England. In 1953, New Zealand began commercial exporting, mainly to Japan, North America, and Europe, with small quantities to Australia, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavia. When Hayward Wright died in 1959, the New Zealand ministry of agriculture renamed his cultivar the Hayward Chinese Gooseberry. That same year, the first 100 cases of Hayward Chinese Gooseberries arrived in San Francisco. Whether it was because American consumers balked at the association of the “Chinese” moniker and communism, or whether growers balked at the “gooseberry” moniker because real (European) gooseberries are prone to a fungus, the name was problematic. So the Auckland fruit packers Turners & Growers floated the alternate term “melonette.” That name was dropped when the New Zealanders realized that there were import tariffs on melons.

In 1961, Chinese gooseberries made their first appearance at a restaurant in the United States. The following year, N. L. Sondag, a California produce dealer, began importing the fruits from New Zealand at the request of a Safeway shopper. Sondag asked for a short Maori name that brought New Zealand to mind. Turners & Growers suggested “kiwi.” By 1964, “kiwi berries” were offered by the Oregon-based Harry and David’s Fruit of the Month Club. By the late 1960s, California began producing its own kiwifruit in the Delano and Gridley areas. By the late 1960s, kiwifruit was being grown in Cambodia, Vietnam, southern Laos, France, Spain, Belgium, and Italy.

Los Angeles fruit trader Frieda Caplan of Frieda’s Inc. was a pioneer in popularizing kiwifruit in the US. She championed the import of New Zealand kiwifruit, and when the first California orchard bore fruit in 1970, she bought the entire crop. The nouvelle cuisine movement of the 1970s boosted kiwifruit’s popularity in the US, while in Europe, it became a craze. Sliced kiwifruit became a signature garnish of nouvelle cuisine, and the required topping for cream tarts. By the late 1970s, Italy began commercial production of kiwifruit.

By the 1980s, 75% of New Zealand’s exports went to Europe, and the Europeans themselves were avidly planting Hayward vines. Italy advanced to third place in world production by 1983. Over half of Italy’s crop is exported to France and other European countries. Production of California kiwifruit skyrocketed in the 1980s, rising 667% in just five years to keep up with soaring demand. Greece began producing kiwifruits for export to other European countries, filling the seasonal gap when fruits from New Zealand are not available. Italy’s kiwifruit crop increased more than 75% in 1989 alone.

In 1990 Italy outstripped New Zealand in production. By 1991, the two countries were embroiled in more than 107 lawsuits, with the Italians trying to block imports from New Zealand by alleging that the New Zealand fruit had excess pesticide residues. By 1992, France, Portugal, Chile, and Japan had also entered the international kiwifruit business. The global kiwifruit market crashed, and New Zealand growers were bankrupt. An estimated 18-20% of them left the business. Production dropped by a fifth. The New Zealanders decided to rename the national fruit and its marketing board with one word. Like Kodak, they wanted a word that was pronounceable and unoffensive in every language. From a computer-generated list of such words, they chose Zespri. Zespri International Limited was formed in 1997 as a global marketing organization. The Hayward kiwifruit became Zespri Green.

The new brand name needed a brand-new fruit. New Zealand’s fruit breeders came up with a gold species (Actinidia chinensis) that was sufficiently unique to be trademarked a Zespri Gold and to have the plant variety rights registered. Zespri now licenses farmers to grow the new gold kiwifruit to Zespri standards, to be sold under a Zespri label.

Today, California provides 98% of the US crop, although the state is still a small player in the world kiwifruit market, trailing Italy, New Zealand, and Chile by a significant margin. Out of the four main varieties, the most popular is still the Hayward. New hybrids include the baby kiwis, are composed of three species of kiwifruit, hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta), Arctic beauty (A. kolomikta), and silver vine (A. polygama). They are green, smooth, about the size of table grapes, and eaten much like them.

Kiwifruit can:

  1. Protect DNA. Kiwifruit protects the DNA in the nuclei of your cells from oxygen-related damage. Antioxidant nutrients most commonly associated with kiwifruit include vitamin C and beta-carotene, plus a variety of other carotenoids and flavonoids. Kiwifruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, the primary water-soluble antioxidant in your body, neutralizing free radicals that can cause damage to cells. Vitamin C also helps return vitamin E to its active form, and the vitamin E in kiwifruit also prevents cell damage from free radicals.
  2. Fight chronic inflammation. The vitamin C in kiwifruit neutralizes free radicals that can lead to inflammation. In fact, adequate intake of vitamin C can reduce the severity of inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. Salicylic acid in kiwifruits helps to reduce pain and inflammation.
  3. Promote cardiovascular health. Kiwifruit is an excellent source of vitamin Cvitamin K, and polyphenols, and a good source of potassium, all of which protect your blood vessels and heart. The vitamin C in kiwifruit helps produce collagen, which supports strong blood vessels. Adequate intake of vitamin C can prevent atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Nobel prize winners Linus Pauling and G. C. Willis have asserted that chronic, long-term, low blood levels of vitamin C (“chronic scurvy”) is a cause of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The vitamin K in kiwifruit allows your blood to clot normally and helps prevent calcification of your arteries. The fiber in kiwifruit can reduce high cholesterol levels, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Potassium in kiwifruit regulates heart rhythm and lowers blood pressure by counteracting the detrimental effects of sodium and regulating fluid balance. Salicylic acid in kiwifruits helps to prevent the formation of dangerous blood clots. Kiwifruit may significantly reduce the amount of fats (triglycerides) in your blood, therefore helping to protect your cardiovascular health.
  4. Boost your immune system. The vitamin C in kiwifruit supports your immune system, processes toxins for elimination, and acts as an antihistamine.
  5. Build strong bodies. The vitamin C in kiwifruit helps produce collagen, which supports strong bones, muscles, blood vessels, gums, mucous membranes, corneas, joints, and other supporting cells and tissues: and helps you absorb iron and calcium. The vitamin K in kiwifruit helps protect your bones from fracture and helps prevent postmenopausal bone loss. The vitamin A in kiwifruit is needed for vision, healthy mucous membranes, bone and tooth growth, and immune system health. Potassium in kiwifruit regulates muscle contraction; regulates nerve transmission; stores carbohydrates for muscles to use as fuel, and promotes regular muscle growth; maintains proper electrolyte and acid-base (pH) balance; and maintains the density and strength of bones by decreasing urinary calcium loss. The vitamin E in kiwifruit protects your skin from ultraviolet light.
  6. Protect against asthma. The vitamin C in kiwifruit may confer significant protection against respiratory symptoms associated with asthma such as wheezing. Vitamin C prevents histamine release and increases the detoxification of histamine.
  7. Prevent cancer. The vitamin C in kiwifruit helps prevent cancer by neutralizing volatile oxygen free radical molecules and preventing damage to your DNA that can lead to cancer, particularly colon cancer. It also destabilizes a tumor’s ability to grow under oxygen-starved conditions. The vitamin K in kiwifruit provides possible protection against liver and prostate cancer. The fiber in kiwifruit binds and removes toxins from your colon, which helps prevent colon cancer. The vitamin E in kiwifruit is essential to the detoxification process and helps protect against bladder cancer and prostate cancer. Salicylic acid in kiwifruits can potentially reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
  8. Control blood sugar. The fiber in kiwifruit helps keep your blood sugar levels under control.
  9. Protect against macular degeneration. Eating three or more servings of fruit per day may significantly reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults.

Nutrients in 1 2” Kiwifruit (69 grams)

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

vitamin C

63.96 mg

106.6%

vitamin K

27.81 µg

34.76%

fiber

2.07 g

8.28%

potassium

215.28 mg

6.15%

vitamin E

1.01 mg

5.05%

copper

0.09 mg

4.5%

folate

17.25 µg

4.31%

manganese

0.07 mg

3.5%

carbohydrates

10.12 g

3.37%

magnesium

11.73 mg

2.93%

phosphorus

23.46 mg

2.35%

calcium

23.46 mg

2.35%

Calories

42.09

2.34%

vitamin B6

0.04 mg

2%

protein

0.79 g

1.58%

thiamine

0.02 mg

1.33%

pantothenic acid

0.13 mg

1.3%

vitamin A

60.03 IU

1.2%

niacin

0.24 mg

1.2%

riboflavin

0.01 mg

1.18%

iron

0.21 mg

1.17%

zinc

0.1 mg

0.67%

fat

0.36 g

0.55%

sodium

2.07 mg

0.09%

cholesterol

0 mg

0%

lutein-zeaxanthin

84.18 µg

carotene-ß

35.88 µg

Because growing seasons are opposite in the northern and southern hemispheres, consumers around the world can enjoy fresh kiwifruit all year long.

When selecting kiwifruits, hold them between your thumb and forefinger and gently apply pressure; the sweetest fruits will yield gently to pressure. Avoid kiwis that are very soft, shriveled, or have bruised or damp spots. Size is not related to the fruit’s quality, so choose a kiwifruit based on your personal preference or recipe requirements.

For the most antioxidants, eat fully ripened kiwifruit. If kiwifruits do not yield when you gently apply pressure with your thumb and forefinger, they have not yet reached the peak of their sweetness. You can leave them to ripen for a few days to a week at room temperature, away from exposure to sunlight or heat. To help speed their ripening process, place kiwifruits in a paper bag with an apple, banana, or pear. Store ripe kiwifruits either at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

You can eat kiwifruits “as is.” You can peel them with a paring knife and then slice them, or you can cut them in half and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. You can rub off the fuzz before you eat them, but try to eat the skins, which are very thin and are full of nutrients and fiber.

Eat kiwifruits soon after cutting, as they contain enzymes (actinic and bromic acids) that act as a food tenderizer, with the ability to further tenderize the kiwifruit itself and make it overly soft. If you are adding kiwifruit to fruit salad, you should do so at the last minute so as to prevent the other fruits from becoming too soggy.

While sliced kiwifruit may soften other fruits when combined in fruit salad, minimal processing of kiwi and other fruits (cutting, packaging and chilling) does not significantly affect their nutritional content for six to nine days. In practical terms, this means that you can prepare a large bowl of fruit salad, store it in the refrigerator, and enjoy it all week, receiving almost all the nutritional benefits of freshly prepared fruit salad. To ensure that kiwifruit does not “tenderize” the other fruits in your salad, store sliced kiwi in a separate air-tight container and add to the rest of the fruit salad just before serving.

Some serving ideas:

  • Eat kiwifruit as is.
  • Add whole kiwifruits, skin and all, to smoothies.
  • Toss kiwifruit into green salads.
  • Serve sliced kiwifruit and strawberries topped with non-dairy yogurt.
  • Mix sliced kiwifruit, orange, and pineapple together to make chutney.
  • Purée watermeloncantaloupe, and kiwifruit; swirl in a little non-dairy yogurt and serve as cold soup.
  • Slice kiwifruit to use in fruit tarts.

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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