A kiwi fruit, also called a "kiwi," "kiwifruit," or "Chinese gooseberry," is a sweet, citrusy, brownish-green fruit approximately the size of a chicken's egg. The fruit's skin is covered with a soft fuzz, which can be removed with a knife or peeler to make it easier to eat. Kiwi fruit contains an enzyme that acts as a meat tenderizer, and many cooks add kiwi to meat dishes specifically for its tenderizing quality.
Appearance and Texture
The flesh of a kiwifruit can be golden or deep green, depending on the variety. Scattered throughout a kiwi are edible black seeds similar to those found in poppies. When sliced lengthwise, a kiwi looks quite a bit like a miniature melon. Sliced horizontally, the round kiwi sections become popular garnishes for fruit platters and other decorative presentations.
Taste and Uses
It can be difficult to describe the taste of a kiwi. The sweetness of the flesh and the slight crunch of the seeds are similar to a strawberry in many respects. Its texture also suggests a hint of banana, with a slight firmness to the flesh, although it has a citrus bite similar to pineapple.
Kiwi is often eaten raw, on its own or with other fruits. A whole kiwi can be eaten like an apple; the skin is edible, although many people prefer to peel it off due to its fuzzy texture. It can be sliced and added to cold salads, or scooped out the peel with a spoon. Hot deserts, like pies and tarts, can incorporate the fruit, as can frozen yogurt, sherbet, and puddings. If used with dairy products, however, it should be eaten right away or it will break down the proteins in the milk. Raw kiwifruit, like pineapple, should not be added to gelatin desserts as it breaks down the structure of such dishes.
The juice is often combined with strawberry juice in fruit cocktail drinks. It can be combined with lemons or limes, sugar, and sparkling water to make a refreshing summer drink. It's often combined with rum in alcoholic beverages.
Buying and Storing the Fruit
When choosing kiwi, shoppers should look for firm fruit with no obvious wrinkles, bruises, or soft spots. The fruit is ready to eat when it looks plump, has a pleasant smell, and feels slightly soft. They can be kept at room temperature for several days to fully ripen. Kiwi will keep in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a week.
Very high in vitamin C — one fruit provides nearly 1.5 times a person's daily recommended intake — kiwi fruit is also high in potassium, vitamin E, folate, and antioxidents. It also has more than 2 grams of fiber, without the skin; eating the skin will add more. There are 61 calories per 100 grams, but a whole one usually weighs a little less than this, and has 45 - 55 calories, depending on the size.
Kiwi grow on long vines, often requiring a lot of space to spread out. They are often supported by trellises, since vines can grow to 24 feet (7.3 meters) long or more. The leathery leaves are large, oval, and deep green. Large cream or white flowers bloom for several weeks in the late spring. These plants are dioecious, meaning that they produce either male or female flowers; both types are needed for the plant to produce fruit.
These plants need a long growing season — about eight months without frost — and do not react well to sudden cold temperatures. Most varieties do need a period of dormancy in the winter, however, with at least a month or so of temperatures near or slightly above freezing. They prefer sunny locations, and need a lot of water to thrive, although the soil should be well drained.
The kiwi is named after a flightless bird from New Zealand, although the fruit is originally from China. The previous name, "Chinese gooseberry," is also misleading since it is not a true member of the gooseberry family. The fruit is actually part of the Actinidia genus, and there are at least 400 varieties. They are a form of berry that grows on woody vines, much like grapes.
During the early 1900s, a director of a New Zealand school for Chinese women visited China and became fascinated with the fruit known at the time as Chinese gooseberries. She brought back several fruit-bearing vines for her gardener to cultivate. Eventually, the fruit became so popular that commercial growers became interested. In order to establish an association with New Zealand, marketers changed the name to "Kiwifruit." Grocers in the US often shorten it to "kiwi," although the name kiwifruit remains common in many countries.