Brown and fuzzy on the outside, a kiwifruit has to be opened to be appreciated – its bright green or gold flesh is attractive and sweet.
The kiwifruit plant
Kiwifruit is the fruit of Actinidia deliciosa, a plant originally from China. A vigorous, deciduous vine, it grows to a height of 20 metres. It has large, round leaves 7–12 centimetres in diameter, and bears male and female flowers on separate plants. Male and female plants must grow close together for fruit to form. The fruit is an oblong berry, about the size of a large egg, with coarse brown skin densely covered in fuzzy hairs. Inside, bright green flesh speckled with tiny black seeds surrounds a white core.
Kiwifruit vines planted in New Zealand in the 1930s were still producing fruit in 2008. In Korea, one plant of a related vine, the arguta kiwifruit (Actinidia arguta), is reputed to be 600 years old.
Kiwifruit is most often eaten fresh, although it can be made into juice, purées and preserves, and is used as an ingredient in cooking. The ripe fruit has a slightly acid tang, a bit like a gooseberry. Most New Zealanders consider kiwifruit-topped pavlova to be a national dish.
Highest-earning fruit crop
Kiwifruit has been grown in New Zealand since the early 1900s, but became an important export crop only after the Second World War. The industry boomed in the 1970s but crashed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when competing countries entered the market. However, with improved production techniques and close attention to environmental issues, along with aggressive marketing, New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry has bounced back. In 2006, kiwifruit was New Zealand’s highest-earning horticultural crop, accounting for 30% of horticultural export earnings.