Kiwifruit or Chinese Gooseberries
Contributor: Leonie Twentyman-Jones.
Photos: Margaret Richards.
Seeing the shops full of Kiwifruit at the moment reminded me of seeing these large woody vines full of beautiful yellow flowers during our recent hike in Italy. In fact our walking route instructions told us to go up a track between kiwi vines growing in pergola style. As none of us had ever seen these little fruits growing before we were most interested to see them growing so enthusiastically and absolutely covered in flowers.
Being curious about their name and origins, I discovered that a New Zealand woman who had been visiting her sister’s mission station in China’s Yangtze Valley in 1904 took some seeds home with her and gave some to a friend. The fruit did well and developed into a commercial crop. In 1959 when New Zealand growers wanted to export the fruit to North America, the name was changed from Chinese gooseberry (Actinidia chinensis) to Kiwifruit. New Zealand’s national bird is of course the Kiwi, which is small, brown and furry, like the fruit!
Today the fruit is grown commercially all over the world, including New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan, Europe and North America. There are also a few growers in South Africa in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Apparently SA produces mainly yellow kiwis, which are slightly sweeter than the green ones, but contain basically the same amounts of potassium, Vitamin C and E and fibre as their green relations. This nutritious fruit is at its best between September and November – so make the most of it to boost your immune system after the horrible winter flu and coughs many of us have been battling with this year!