Story: Food

Page 6. Fruit

All images & media in this story

19th-century fruit

Wild berries from indigenous trees such as the hīnau and karaka were the only fruits available to Māori communities before Europeans arrived. European settlers brought a wide variety of fruits with them, two-thirds of which had been introduced to Europe from other parts of the world. Commonly grown early fruit plants include apple, pear, plum and peach.

Hairy without, delicious within

While kiwifruit plants were sold more widely from the 1920s, they remained unusual for a time. In 1932 Auckland nurseryman Hayward Wright said: ‘Most people are puzzled how to eat a Chinese gooseberry [the old name for kiwifruit] … It is no use picking them when they are green. They must turn thoroughly brown first. Then, when they look as though they are ready to drop off, you pick them, rub away the fur, peel them … and there you have one of the most delicious and appetising fruits you could possibly imagine.’1

Direct introductions

In the early 20th century several significant introductions took place. The kiwifruit was introduced from China in 1904, followed by the feijoa from South America (via Australia) in 1908 and the avocado from Central America (via California) in 1919. Other directly introduced fruits include the nashi pear and mandarin.

Fruit-growing

Apple orcharding thrived in New Zealand until competition from China and South America cut into exports. In the early 2000s there have been significant orchard uprootings in Nelson. Nevertheless, apples remain popular and cheap. The three most popular varieties – Braeburn, Gala and the Pacific Rose series – were bred in New Zealand.

Most apples eaten in New Zealand are locally grown, as are pears. Most navel oranges and Meyer lemons grown in New Zealand are for local consumption.

Eating fruit

Before the 1950s New Zealanders did not eat much raw fruit, and then mainly during the summer and autumn fruit seasons. Pre-1950s cookbooks contained many recipes for cooked fruits in puddings and pies. Later, fruit was increasingly eaten raw, as a snack or part of a prepared dish. Fruit juice, particularly apple, became more widely available in the 1960s. Fruit was also often added to ice cream.

Apples have tended to be the most popular fruit eaten, followed by bananas and oranges. Overall fruit consumption has risen steadily, as more fruit varieties were introduced and the health benefits of fruit were increasingly recognised.

Footnotes:
  1. Evening Post, 2 August 1932, p. 5. Back
How to cite this page:

David Burton, 'Food - Fruit', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/food/page-6 (accessed 25 June 2019)

Story by David Burton, published 5 Sep 2013