New Zealand’s Fuzzy Little Fruit
By Awake! correspondent in New Zealand
WESTERNERS called it the Chinese gooseberry. But when it began being cultivated in New Zealand, promoters capitalized on the resemblance this fuzzy fruit bore to New Zealand’s famous kiwi bird. Thus, it became known the world over as kiwifruit.
For decades the economic livelihood of this South Pacific land depended solely upon its wool, meat, and dairy products. But now kiwifruit has emerged as a source of income as New Zealand’s main horticultural crop. This has made it possible for kiwifruit to tease the taste buds of millions. Its versatility, limited only by the imagination, has resulted in a great variety of delightful dishes.
But just what is this fuzzy little fruit? Kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis) is really a berry that grows on a vine. Thriving in a mild climate, kiwifruit was originally grown in the Yangtze Valley of southern China. However, in 1934 the first commercial planting was made in New Zealand at Te Puke, a town of 5,500 inhabitants on the east coast of North Island. Soon kiwifruit cultivation was established in other parts of the country. But it is Te Puke, with its ideal climatic conditions, that has come to be called the “kiwifruit capital of the world.”
Growing kiwifruit is quite an undertaking. It takes from three to five years for a newly planted vine to bear fruit. Furthermore, constant pruning of the vines is necessary to ensure that sufficient light reaches the fruit. Permanent support structures for the vines—T-bar or pergola trellises—must be constructed. And when harvest season commences, hundreds of skilled workers are required to hand pick millions of pieces of fruit that are about the size of a lemon or a small orange. It takes about four large kiwifruit to make a pound, and tens of thousands of tons of the fruit are harvested each year.
All of this might seem like a lot of trouble to grow a fruit that The Wall Street Journal once described as looking about as impressive as “an old tennis ball.” But don’t let its dull looks deceive you. “Cut the kiwifruit open,” continued the Journal, “and it comes to life. Suddenly all is electric green and fragrant, with a violet-ringed yellow sunburst at the centre.” And taste it by scooping it out with a spoon! Its pulp has a sweet, fruity flavor. In addition, this tiny fruit packs a powerful nutritional punch. Besides having significant amounts of vitamins C and E, the fiber content of a large kiwifruit is nearly four times greater than that of a cup of chopped celery. One fruit has more potassium than a banana and may supply from 20 to 70 percent of the body’s daily need for chromium.
Kiwifruit is also quite versatile in the kitchen and is easily adapted to a wide range of diets. Assuming it is available locally, you might want to try the accompanying recipe. You too may become a lover of New Zealand’s fuzzy little fruit!
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New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board
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Kiwifruit Ice Salad:
1 can of litchis (500 grams or 1 pound) or other fruit
4 peeled kiwifruit
1 cup of sugar
1 can of mandarin segments (250 grams or 1/2 pound)
1 tablespoon [15 ml] of orange liqueur
1 tablespoon [15 ml] of lemon juice
2 cups [0.5 L] of water
1. Pour water and sugar into pan. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Boil for three minutes. Allow to cool.
2. Pulp two kiwifruit in blender.
3. Add pulped kiwifruit, mandarin juice, lemon juice, and liqueur to sugar. Stir until well mixed. Freeze mixture in shallow tray. Scrape with a fork to produce flakes.
4. Chill remaining kiwifruit, and cut into slices.
5. Stuff litchis with mandarin segments and, along with sliced kiwifruit, place in medium-size brandy glasses or serving dishes.
6. Spoon any remaining litchi and mandarin juice over fruit.
7. Sprinkle prepared ice flakes on top of the fruit when ready to serve.
Serves 4-6 persons.