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Kiwi Fruit History

Kiwifruit originated in China

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Kiwi Fruit

© Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Kiwi Fruit History

Kiwifruit, Actinidia chinensis, was formerly known as the Chinese gooseberry. Surprisingly, although it is associated with New Zealand, kiwifruit actually originated in the Chang Kiang Valley of China. The Chinese used it as a tonic for children and women after childbirth due to its high nutritional value, but never truly enjoyed it as a fruit. It was first exported from Asia as an ornamental vine, perfect for arbors, in the early 1900s. The kiwifruit arrived first in 1904 in the United States and later in 1906 found its way to New Zealand. Yet it was the New Zealanders who recognized the potential of this succulent fruit and began cultivating it for commercial profit.

Due to novelle cuisine movement of the 70's, the kiwifruit gained great popularity in the USA. New hybrids include the baby kiwis, which are green, smooth, about the size of table grapes, and eaten much like them. Today, California provides 95 percent of the US crop. Out of the four main varieties, the most popular is the "Hayward," a variety developed by New Zealand horticulturist Hayward Wright. Luckily, the opposite growing season of New Zealand makes kiwifruit available year-round in the Northern hemisphere.

Naming the Kiwifruit

New Zealanders do not take kindly to the fruit being referred to as a kiwi, preferring kiwifruit. The kiwi is a small flightless bird native to New Zealand, a term New Zealanders often use in reference to themselves.

The moniker of "kiwifruit" is a fairly recent development, believe it or not. New Zealand growers adopted the name kiwifruit for the Chinese gooseberry in the mid 1960's, believing it to be more palatable than a reference to the hairy bird which its hairy exterior resembles. There are also some references to the name change being in response to anti-communist sentiments implied by Chinese gooseberry.

In France, kiwifruit translates to souris vegetales, meaning vegetable mouse. It's an apt description, albeit not very appetizing.

Kiwifruit may look unpalatable at first glance, but beneath that hairy brown exterior lies emerald green flesh with a flavor reminiscent of strawberries to some and pineapple to others. As tempting as it is in desserts, this sweet, yet slightly tart fruit also works well in savory dishes.

More About Kiwifruit and Kiwi Recipes:

Kiwifruit Selection, Storage, and Tips
Kiwifruit History
Kiwifruit / Kiwi Recipes
Kiwifruit Photo © 2009 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Cookbooks

* Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables
* Chez Panisse Fruit
* The Great Exotic Fruit Cookbook
* Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook
* More Cookbooks
Related Video
Learn to Select, Peel, and Slice Kiwi
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