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Kiwi Fruit

Information about kiwi fruit plus kiwi fruit recipe collection

 

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April

2006

 

 

 

The Kiwifruit plant belongs to the family Actinidia. Although there are around 400 varieties, the ones most widely grown for commercial fruiting purposes are A. deliciosa, which has a green flesh and more recently, A. Chinensis also known as the Golden Kiwi or “Chinabelle”, which has a yellow flesh and is sweeter and less acidic than the green variety. Both these varieties are about the size of a large chicken’s egg and are oval with a downy greenish-brown edible skin. When ripe the flesh is soft with rows of tiny black seeds, which are also edible. The flavour can be described as a cross between strawberries, bananas and pineapple and the fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. Kiwifruit is high in antioxidant vitamin C and a good source of fibre, vitamin E and potassium. It also contains folate, copper, vitamin E and lutein.

 

Origin and History of Kiwi Fruit

 

The Kiwifruit is indigenous to southeast Asia. The vines can be found growing wild on the edges of forests near to China's Yangtze Valley, and reach heights of 30 feet or more, and the fruit has been known to the inhabitants of China since ancient times although during our research, we have come across descriptions ranging from “…were not well liked as a general food” to “….considered a delicacy by the Court of the great Khans” to “…used to make a tonic for women after childbirth”. Perhaps it depended on exactly where or who one was.

The West was introduced to this fruit relatively late on in history and it wasn’t until the 19th century that samples of both the fruit and seeds were sent to England and c1905 plant cuttings were taken to the United States and seeds sent to New Zealand where the fruit was renamed the "Chinese Gooseberry" where the fruit started to be produced commercially c1940. By the early 1960s New Zealand was exporting crops to the United States where it was re-named Kiwifruit after New Zealand's national bird the "kiwi."

By the 1970s it was commercially grown in California and available for the first time in supermarkets throughout the country. It was also about this time that nouvelle cuisine started taking it’s hold worldwide at which point the kiwifruit gained great popularity as the “darling” of the new eating craze, especially as a garnish.

Today Kiwifruit is available worldwide and is commercially grown is several countries including Australia, Chile, France, Greece, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the USA.
 

Cultivation of  Kiwi Fruit

 

Kiwifruit can be grown in most temperate climates so long as adequate summer heat occurs. Commercially grown vines generally crop in the fourth season with full production being reached in 8 to 12 years. Dormant plants obtained from a nursery can be planted out during the spring after the danger of frost and should be planted to the same depth as the plants grew in the nursery. After planting, prune the plant back to one single, healthy shoot 6 to 12 inches long. Kiwifruit plants are normally male or female. The female plants bear the fruit but a male plant is necessary in order for pollination to take place. In general you need one male plant for three to eight females. Although it is now possible to get self pollinators, their vigour is generally inferior, producing much fewer fruit.
 

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As Kiwifruit is difficult to pollinate, some producers collect male pollen and then blow it over the female flowers however more often saturation pollination is the preferred method. This is where bee populations are over boosted by placing lots of hives in the orchards. The bees are therefore forced to use kiwifruit flowers which they usually find unattractive due to the fierce competition for all flowers within flight distance.

The vines are trained on sturdy supports or trellises which not only enables the plants to get plenty of light and good air circulation but also allows heavier cropping as, unsupported, the vines aren’t that strong and would probably be wind damaged.

Often growing to a height of around 15 feet, the fruit grows hanging down similar to the way grapes do on grapevines. The vines require vigorous pruning, similar to that of grapevines as the fruit is borne on one-year-old and older canes, but production declines as each cane ages. Canes are generally cut off and replaced after their third year. Fruit is harvested in late autumn and even commercially produced fruit is hand picked, either by snapping or clipping the stalk at an abscission layer close to the base of the fruit . The largest fruit can be removed first and the smaller ones left to get bigger on the vine or all the fruit can be harvested at the same time.

They are carried in boxes to packing stations where they are mechanically carried across a brushing machine which removes the hairs and, in some cases, the styles and sepals as well. If protected from dehydration can be stored from 4 to 6 months at 31F.

 

Buying and Storing  Kiwi Fruit

 

It is best to buy firm kiwifruit and allow them ripen at home f. A kiwifruit is ripe when plump and slightly soft to the touch with a fragrant smell. Choose kiwifruit with no bruises or soft spots and avoid fruit with wrinkles or signs of exterior damage.

Store unripe fruit at room temperature until the skin indents slightly when touched. It normally takes 3 to 5 days to ripen kiwis at room temperature although to can hasten ripening by placing the fruit in a paper bag with an apple or banana. Ripe kiwis can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Place them in a plastic bag to help reduce moisture loss.

Freezing kiwifruit doesn’t impair either the flavour or colour and is therefore an excellent idea when you have lots of fruit available. Also it does NOT inactivate the enzymes which break down protein (see below for full details). They can be frozen whole, sliced or crushed. Choose fully ripe fruit. Sliced fruit freezes and thaws very well making them ideal to use as a garnish. Simply place individual slices on a baking sheet and freeze until solid then store in freezer proof bags. Alternatively, cover with a sugar syrup before freezing in rigid containers.

Ripe Kiwifruit can be dried in the sun or oven. The fruit can then be eaten dried or reconstituted in water for a couple of hours before being used in recipes.  Halve the fruit or cut into thick slices then dip in a heavy sugar syrup in which 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid crystals per 900ml/30fl.oz. have been dissolved. Dry in hot sun or in the oven at 120F until pliable and leathery.

When using kiwifruit in preserves, choose under ripe fruit as they contain a higher level of pectin so aiding the setting quality

 

Kiwifruit in Cooking

 

As mentioned above, Kiwifruit are a relatively new ingredient in most western cuisines. Even in it’s native China, it doesn’t seem to be widely mentioned. However, with the advent of Nouvelle Cuisine plus improved cultivation and transport methods, most of us can now buy kiwifruit throughout the year.

Due to the enzyme called Actinidin, Kiwifruit it a natural meat tenderizer and cooks have therefore utilised it in savoury as well as sweet recipes. It works by breaking down the protein. The most simple way is to just cut in half or mash the flesh, rub it over meat, and leave to stand for at least 15 minutes but do not marinate for more than 30-40 minutes.  It should be remembered that this enzyme also breaks down protein in other foods such as gelatine and dairy products so when it is combined with ice cream, yogurt, or sour cream, it's best to consume it relatively quickly. Cooking halts the protein break-down process. Avoid using raw kiwifruit in dishes containing gelatine as it will impair the setting qualities.
 

Click here for lots of Kiwi Fruit Recipes

 

 

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