This iconic fruit, which we grow so expertly in New Zealand, originated in China.
The seeds were brought back to New Zealand by Isabel Fraser, a teacher from Whanganui, who passed them on to a farmer named Alexander Allison. He planted them on his farm near the riverine town of Whanganui. The trees went on to bear their first fruit in 1910.
Around the same time the first seeds were introduced to New Zealand, both the UK and the US were also experimenting with growing kiwifruit commercially. But, as luck would have it, neither the British nor the American attempt was as fruitful, with both enterprises only producing male plants.
Chinese Gooseberries were the original nickname for this new fruit, yet when Turners & Growers started marketing it to the US in the 1950s, they were told gooseberries were not a popular fruit. So, in 1959, this small, fuzzy brown fruit was named after our small fuzzy brown bird.
Large-scale cultivation of the kiwifruit can now be found in many countries, including the US, Italy and – ironically – China, which became the world’s top kiwifruit producer by
2014. But much of the kiwifruit grown worldwide can be traced back to Alexander Allison’s Whanganui farm. Harvest starts in February with Zespri ™ Red Kiwifruit, shortly followed by Zespri ™ Vita SunGold ™ Kiwifruit and then Green Kiwifruit in late March.It is supplied firstly
from chilled storage then from a controlled atmosphere for the balance of the year. Overall availability is often influenced by export market returns and demand.
There is generally a gap in Zespri Vita SunGold Kiwifruit at the tail end of the year. Green supply is supplemented by imports primarily out of Italy December to February. You can get best value
produce at harvest time, pricing then gradually builds as we move through the year, reaching its
peak with imported produce.
Can you get any more traditional than kiwifruit slices served with cream and
pavlova? This combination works because the sharpness of the kiwifruit cuts through
the cream and sweetness of a pavlova, not to mention the stunning colour contrast
of the green and white.
But kiwifruit can be used in so many other ways, including savoury applications. With a tenderizing enzyme, it can be used as a marinade on meat. Or create a tropical salsa with the addition of chillies, citrus and fresh herbs, like mint, to brighten grilled fish, pork or chicken.
With its own beautiful tropical flavours, kiwifruit goes perfectly with bananas, berries, mango and orange. Kiwifruit makes a great puree, addition to smoothies and an interesting garnish – fresh or dehydrated. While the skin is usually peeled before serving, it is actually edible.
Vibrant, emerald green in colour with a white core and black seeds. This is the variety most people associate with kiwifruit.
Zespri Vita SunGold
Smooth, oval fruit with a vibrant yellow colour and tropical taste – a cross between a mango and a strawberry. Compared to their Green counterpart they have a smaller core, fewer seeds and less fuzz.
The most recent innovation in kiwifruit growing has been the introduction of the Zespri Red Kiwifruit variety. The refreshing, raspberry taste of the fruit has been well-received in market trials and the first fruit began commercial growing in New Zealand in 2020. However, as it is only in its infancy, there are only a handful of growers so supply only lasts for a couple of months.
The name used in New Zealand for actinidia arguta, a smaller fruit (between 5–20 grams), with smooth, hairless edible skins, with shapes varying from round to elongated. In some countries they are also known as Baby Kiwi. The majority of Kiwiberries are grown in the Bay of Plenty region and harvested March through April.