The humble-looking kiwi fruit has a rough, hairy, brown coat which hides a variety of beneficial properties within its exotic emerald interior. With a history unknown to many and several name changes over time, this fruit has multiple health benefits and a range of uses and is well worth putting on your next shopping list.
The kiwi fruit or actinidia deliciosa was once known as the Chinese gooseberry, which is not surprising as it originated in China and is still its national fruit. A New Zealand missionary, Isabel Frasier, brought seeds back to her home country after visiting China at the start of the twentieth century. The seeds were planted in 1906 and a crop was produced four years later. Exports did not begin until 1952 when thirteen tonnes were sent to England. At this point it was called melonette but then the Maori word kiwi was used instead, due to the high tariffs that made melon exporting too expensive.
In Maori, kiwi is the word for New Zealand’s national flightless bird which is brown with a thick coating of tiny and delicate feathers. Eighteen years later Californians were able to produce their own crops of kiwi fruit. It wasn’t until 1991 that a distinctly different variety was developed in New Zealand, and this became known as gold or yellow kiwi fruit, a milder and less acidic version with warm yellow flesh. Many countries produce green kiwi fruit on a large scale, including Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Japan, Greece, France, America and China.
The health benefits of kiwi fruit are astounding because it is exceptionally nutrient-rich when compared to many other types of fruit, which in most cases only have one or two nutrients each. It contains a proportionally large amount of vitamin C – more than oranges which are traditionally associated with this vitamin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which is said to help with healing and with protection of the body against conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity. It is necessary in the formation of collagen, which helps to keep teeth, gums, skin, ligaments and tendons healthy.
Vitamin A is also present in the fruit and is useful for vision and for healthy teeth, bones and skin. The substantial amount of vitamin E also found in the juicy flesh is another form of protection from cancer and heart disease.
Kiwi fruit is a high-potassium, low-sodium food. It is well known that the sodium-potassium balance is essential for maintaining good cardiovascular health, and it is believed that kiwi fruit can assist this vital equilibrium. It contains folic acid, which is highly recommended for women hoping to become pregnant, and calcium and iron are essential for the body and very useful for pregnancy. Serotonin, a natural chemical with calming properties, can also be found in this amazingly complex fruit.
Commonly known to be high in fibre, kiwi fruit is a recommended natural remedy for those with constipation and bowel problems, or for babies who have started solid food and may need a natural laxative to prevent constipation. Even the skin, which is often not eaten, is fibrous and can be beneficial for some people, provided that it is cleaned first in case of the previous use of any pesticides or fertilisers.
For some, the acidity of the juicy flesh can be unsettling to the stomach. However, eating it with other foods or earlier in the day (as opposed to just before bedtime for those with acid reflux issues) can help. Yellow or gold kiwi fruit is less acidic and gentler in the digestive system, so it is a good choice for those with the potential for nausea or gastritis, and for babies and young children.
There are many ways to use and benefit from the vitamins and minerals present within kiwi fruit. It is often added to soaps, creams, lotions and other skin and beauty products due to the rich vitamin and mineral content. It is also highly prized because of its attractive green colour, the characteristic tiny black seeds and the distinctive scent.
There are a variety of ways to eat it. Popular as a natural fruit which can be sliced in half and scooped out of its furry shell with a spoon, kiwi fruit also contributes its gorgeous colour and pretty pattern when cut and added to fruit salad or sliced attractively and used as a topping or garnish for ice cream, cakes and desserts. It can be puréed and mixed into ice creams, juices and smoothies, cooked into jellies and jams, pulped and reduced into dessert sauces and gourmet chocolate fillings, and simply cut and added to fruit platters or fruit kebabs.
Love it or loathe it, kiwi fruit has remained in demand since the beginning of the last century. It is undeniably a unique, incredibly beneficial fruit which has so many uses that it will continue to be an exotic addition to any meal, snack, or even beauty routine. The exceptional kiwi fruit is synonymous with good health.