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Kiwi Berries & Kiwi Fruit

Written for the Alameda Sun October 2003

It is interesting how nature works. Throughout the spring & summer we are blessed with fruit and vegetables that restore lost minerals and help keep us from dehydrating when we're having fun in the sun. In the fall & winter we are gifted with fruits and veggies that give us the vitamins we need to help deter viruses and keep our blood warm . Although almost any produce item is available year round due to imports from other climates, the best seasons are the real seasons that we enjoy right here in California.
Fall fruit has a vast lineup. From the several citrus varieties like navel oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, to apples, pears, pomegranates and persimmons. In the specialty mix comes Kiwi Berries, also marketed as grape kiwi or baby kiwi.

This miniature version of the kiwifruit makes a great fruit snack for children, especially toddlers because they are fuzzless, with smooth edible skin, and a little larger than a grape so it makes them easy to manage.

Just like the large kiwifruit, baby kiwi has both green and gold flesh varieties with several tiny black seeds. They share the same nutrition as their grown up fuzzy forefathers and when harvested at peak ripeness, they are incredibly sweet.

A word of warning, children under five years old who suffer from any food allergies may be effected by eating kiwifruit. In fact it can be life threatening. It is strongly recommended that before giving kiwifruit to your child, you find out if he or she has any allergic reactions to fruit.

On the other hand Kiwifruit is the most nutrient rich fruit on the market. Out of the top 26 fruits in the produce department, the kiwi was rated # 1. It has the highest density of any fruit for vitamin C.

It also ranks #1 among the top three low sodium high potassium fruits, having more potassium than a banana or citrus fruits. Kiwi is also a good source of vitamin E, which is contained in the many tiny black seeds and a good source of calcium, folic acid and magnesium.

Major growing areas include Hanford and Marysville for the large kiwifruit which is in full production at this moment and in the summer we import from New Zealand and Chili.


So where did these nutrition packed tongue tickling titillating fuzzy berries come from? Like so many other luscious fruit varieties the Kiwi fruit's origin is China. It was enjoyed by the great Khans who considered it a delicacy. The "Yang Tao" or Chinese gooseberry made it's way through various parts of the world throughout the 1800's. In 1904 it found it's way to American soil, but it wasn't until 1962 when Frieda Kaplan began importing the fruit from New Zealand at the request of a produce buyer from Safeway that the fruit began its long journey to superstardom in the produce department. A customer had called the main office and asked for Chinese Gooseberries like she experienced during a recent trip to New Zealand. So Frieda sourced them, but she needed a name for the fruit that had some marketing appeal. A broker for U.S. customs suggested to name it after the endangered kiwi bird in New Zealand as the fruit was brown and fuzzy just like the bird. Thus the Chinese gooseberry was re-invented the "kiwi fruit."

When selecting Kiwi in the store, look for firm fruit free of blemishes. Stay away from shriveled ends and soft spots. Size varies and does not effect the quality of the fruit. Ripen at room temperature until the fruit yields to gentle pressure in the palm of your hand. Then store them in the refrigerator if you're not going use them right away. Kiwi can be ripened in a paper or plastic bag. To speed up the process, add a banana or an apple to help it on its way.

Alright, so now you know how good the kiwi is for you, where it came from and how to select them. Now what do you do with it? Let's start simple. Kiwifruit can be used anywhere a strawberry is used. In salsas, fruit and nut salads and on cereal. If you own a fruit dehydrator or a jerky machine, kiwi makes great dried fruit chips. And one cannot forget Kiwi margaritas or daiquiris, with or without the alcohol. My favorite way? Eaten out of hand. In fact the skin is edible. A bit fuzzy, but there is lots of extra fiber in the skin. Vitamin C is located right beneath the peel so you get the full benefit when you don't peel it.

Kiwi Berries are available October through December from Northern California and Oregon. California Kiwifruit is available late September through May.