Kiwi - history, production, trade
The kiwifruit is an exotic fruit (more precisely it is a berry) produced by some "vines" typical of Eastern Asia, the Actinidia (of the Actinidiaceae family) and in particular by the Actinidia deliciosa, even though many varieties of this fruit are produced by other cultivars or by other kind of plants, such as the Actinidia Kolomikta or the Actinidia arguta and the Actinidia chinensis.
The kiwifruit is known to be the fruit of this plant: its flesh is emerald green, very juicy, sugary, slightly acidic and has small black edible seeds, which are arranged around the central light yellow part of the fruit.
The skin is thin, brown and slightly hairy. Even though the skin is edible, the fruit is usually peeled before being eaten.
The fruit is very low in calorie content, 44 Kcal for 100 gr of product: the kiwifruit is in fact composed by about 84% of water, 9% of carbohydrate and very few traces of fats and proteins.
The kiwifruit is acidic, juicy and refreshing: it can be eaten slicing it in half and digging it with a teaspoon, as an ice cream, or sliced in thin slices with lemon and sugar (to sweeten it), or also in fruit salads or in fruit spits. Kiwifruits can be eaten at breakfast, with muesli or yogurt, because of its laxative properties.
It can be used to prepare healthy fruit pies, sorbets, ice creams or ice lollies.
Kiwifruits, apart from being eaten, can also be used to prepare beauty treatments, such as kiwifruit face masks. Furthermore, from kiwifruit seeds an hydrating and soothing oil is extracted: it is useful to make your skin more bright and in case of psoriasis and eczema.
Even though the skin of many kiwifruit varieties is hairy, it is possible to eat it as it is not harmful: it is enough to carefully wash and rub it, especially if it is an organic fruit.
The kiwifruit is native to Asia, coming from Southern China, where it was cultivated about 700 years ago. It was considered a delicacy for the Chinese emperors and it was used as a food and as an ornament.
At the beginning of 1800, the kiwifruit reached England and in 1900 it spread thanks to the intensive cultivations of New Zealand, where the plant found an optimum environment; according to some authors, the fruit is called kiwifruit because of the typical bird of New Zealand, the kiwi.
At the end of 1900 the kiwifruit spread also in Europe; it arrived in Italy only at the end of XX century, but it was a great success. Nowadays, especially thanks to the kiwifruit cultivations in Veneto, Piemonte and Lazio, our country is one of the first world producer and exporter countries of kiwifruit (together with China and New Zealand).
The kiwifruit is harvested between September and October and can be traded on the fruit and vegetable market from November to approximately April, even though it can be found on the fruit and vegetable market throughout all the year, thanks to modern methods of preservation.
The plant of kiwifruit ( Actinidia chinensis) is a woody plant with vines that can reach 10 metres in height. Leaves are heart shaped, simple, alternate, with a hairy petiole, while flowers are roundish, cream-coloured. From flowers develop the well-known oval fruits, kiwifruits, with their delicious green flesh, covered by a brown hairiness. It is a dioecious plant, meaning that male and female flowers are on different plants, therefore, to obtain fruits from female plants, male plants have to be cultivated too. In general, the kiwifruit plant needs a lot of water: it can easily adapt to any climate and can afford both extreme hot temperatures and the harshness of bitter cold. However, the fruits fear autumn frost, while sprouts fear spring cold.
The plants of kiwifruit need 3 to 8 years to start bearing fruits and need a mild and temperate climate, with temperatures included between 5 and 25 °C. The kiwifruit can be cultivated at lower temperatures, but in this case the harvestings are poorer. The plant of kiwifruit is particularly sensitive to wind: it is suggested to grow the plant on pillars, as for grapevine, as it is a vine bush. The plants must not be planted too deeply and the graft must stay above the soil. Therefore, the cultivation of kiwifruit has to be done on a loose soil, deep, rich in organic substances and with a neutral pH.
At room temperature the kiwifruit lasts about five days, if kept in the refrigerator and in a plastic bag, it can last longer.
If you want to accelerate the kiwifruit ripening it is possible to put the fruit near apples, bananas or pears.
The environment in which the kiwifruits are selected, measured and packaged for the following retailing of kiwifruits, has to be free of ethylene and gas that could accelerate their ripening.
The kiwifruit has extraordinary specific qualities: it is a very rich fruit that can be used in different diets. In fact, it is rich in vitamin C (85mg/100gr), potassium, vitamin E, copper, iron and fibres. The kiwifruit makes the skin more elastic and reduces wrinkles, thanks to antioxidant vitamins that oppose time signs, by killing free radicals.
As to health, the kiwifruit reduces triglycerides in the blood, protects gums and teeth, keeps young our eyes and is suggested also to whom, who have digestion problems, as it helps the intestine work. Furthermore, the kiwifruit opposes the deposits of plaques in arteries.
Thanks to its high content of water, antioxidants and potassium, the kiwifruit is good for sportsmen and high blood pressure sufferers diets.
Apart from vitamin C, the kiwifruit contains vitamin E, useful to protect our body from the consequences of ageing of tissues.
Finally, the kiwifruit is considered a beneficial food that can protect the body from diseases, such as cancer and can protect the DNA.