Kiwi fruit have their origins in China where they are called the “sunny peach” (Yang Tao) or the “macaque peach” (Mikou Tao). They were first taken to New Zealand at the beginning of the 20th century or the end of the 19th, by a missionary, Isabel Frazier. This is how they got their English name, kiwi, which is a Maori word and also the name of a flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand. The British also call the New Zealanders Kiwis, and as it was first imported into Britain from New Zealand, the name is apt in the British context.
The kiwi fruit grows on a vine, although you would be forgiven for thinking that it grows on a small tree, as that is what the mature plant looks like. Now they are grown in Europe, particularly in Portugal, France, Greece and Italy.
In 1991 the first golden kiwis were harvested, having a golden coloured flesh rather than the usual green one which is used to such good effect in fruit salads.
The kiwi fruit is rich in nutrients, and has more potassium that a banana and more vitamins E and C than citrus fruits such as grapefruit, oranges and lemons. It also contains calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, some of the B-complex vitamins and the seeds contain an oil rich in Omega-3 which is sadly lacking in most of our diets. It has been hailed as a “super fruit” and rightly so.
In Italian studies on children it has been shown that children with kiwi fruit in their diets and who have respiratory problems such as asthma, shortness of breath and wheezing, have fewer problems than children whose diets do not include this fruit.
In other studies in the lab, in vitro, (not in humans or animals), extracts of kiwi fruit have had inhibiting effects on melanoma cells (skin cancer). The fruit may also help to prevent arteries clogging.
Kiwi fruits exhibit powerful antioxidant activity which means that they combat the free radicals in the body which can damage healthy cells and cause them to become cancerous. Having potent antioxidant properties also means that they can help to thin the blood and so prevent blood clots. Antioxidants also help to reduce signs of aging.
A face mask can be made from the skin and pulp of kiwis which tightens the pores and leaves the skin feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Just blend a couple of fruit and skins and apply the pulp to your face, leave on for 30 minutes and then rinse off with tepid water.
The lutein contained in kiwis has been linked to the prevention of prostate and lung cancer, although as studies are still underway, it is too early to say if this is actually the case. However adding kiwis to your diet would not harm you, as long as you remove the skin from commercially grown ones as it may contain pesticide residue.
A kiwi fruit also contains a fair amount of dietary fibre, so it can help to prevent constipation and reduce the risk of piles and colon cancer.
Finally on a lighter note, the US humorist, Erma Bombeck once quipped “Someone once threw me a small, brown, hairy kiwi fruit and I threw a wastebasket over it until it was dead.”