Being a native of Washington State, it never would have occurred to me that it might be possible to buy kiwifruit locally, even in California. So, when I discovered a stand selling kiwifruit at my local farmer’s market, I got something of a thrill. I’d never seen any kiwifruit like this before- lumpy and deformed, with more fuzz and tree bits than I have seen on the well groomed kiwifruit at the supermarket. I heard a rumor from the lemon man (yes, there is a lemon man) that the kiwis were particularly good this week, so I bought myself three lovely specimens for the bargain price of ninety-five cents. And- they were every bit as delicious as rumor would have had me believe- with a creamy white interior and a tart green accent. If kiwifruit tasted like this in the supermarket, I would eat them all the time.
I decided to do a little research about the kiwifruit, and found it had a more interesting history than I would have expected.
The kiwi fruit, a.k.a. “Actinidia deliciosa, is native to southern China, where it is declared as the “National Fruit” of the People’s Republic of China.” In China it was called by a variety of names, including “Macaque peach, wonder fruit, Willow peach, Goat peach, Hairy pear, or Vine pear.” Apparently it was first introduced to New Zealand by a school principal who discovered the fruit when visiting mission schools in China. The first fruit was produced in New Zealand in 1910, and was thought to taste like gooseberry, so it was called a “Chinese Gooseberry.” (Source: Wikipedia) It was commercially cultivated from the 1940’s onward, but during the Cold war the name lost favor for political reasons and was officially dubbed the kiwifruit in 1974. Because kiwi can refer to New Zealanders, a bird, or the fruit, New Zealand officially adopted Zespri as a new name for the fruit. It contains vitamin C, A, potassium, and Vitamin E. It also contains an enzyme that some people are allergic to, and this same enzyme will cause milk products to separate over time, so it’s not a good ingredient for milk based puddings unless you will be serving it relatively quickly. I like it plain, but I wonder… wouldn’t kiwi jam be nice?