Kiwi Fruit 101 – The Basics
About Kiwi Fruit
Kiwis are small, oval fruits with brown fuzzy skin (some varieties have smooth skin without the fuzz). Inside, the flesh is semi-translucent green speckled with a few white veins and small black seeds. Kiwis are described as being sweet/sour, with notes of melon and/or strawberries, with a soft texture accented by tiny, crunchy seeds.
The most common species is Actinidia deliciosa, commonly known as Hayward kiwi. Interest in kiwi fruit is growing, so other species are becoming more widely available. Some are smooth-skinned varieties, the size of cherries, with flesh a golden yellow-green color. There are over 50 varieties of kiwi fruit.
Kiwis are native to China and were originally known as Yang Tao. They were carried to New Zealand from China by missionaries in the early 20th century. The first commercial plantings took place decades later. In 1960, they were renamed Chinese Gooseberries.
In 1961, Chinese Gooseberries first appeared at a restaurant in the United States where they were discovered by an American produce distributor who believed the U.S. market would be very receptive to this exotic fruit. She started the importation of these delicious fruits into the United States in 1962, but changed the name to kiwi fruit, in honor of the kiwi, the native bird of New Zealand, whose brown fuzzy coat resembled the skin of the fruit. Today, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, France, Japan, and the United States are among the leading commercial producers of kiwi fruit.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Kiwis are an excellent source of Vitamins C and K, a very good source of copper, and a good source of fiber, Vitamin E, potassium, and folate. Kiwis also contain some pantothenic acid and Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, magnesium, manganese, and a little calcium. They are considered to have a low glycemic index, so they are not known to cause a large blood sugar rise after being eaten. There are 110 calories per 1-cup serving of kiwi fruit.
Antioxidant Protection. Kiwis are exceptionally high in Vitamin C, one of the primary water-soluble antioxidants in the body. It is known to neutralize harmful free radical molecules that damage cells, leading to inflammation and cancer. Adequate Vitamin C has been shown to help reduce the severity of chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. It can also help prevent colon cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetic heart disease. It is well established that Vitamin C plays important roles in maintaining a healthy immune system, so it helps to prevent or lessen the severity of many infectious diseases. Researchers have clearly demonstrated that regular consumption of fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Researchers have also found that phytonutrients in kiwis have the ability to protect DNA in the nucleus of human cells from oxygen-related damage. They have not identified exactly which compounds provided this benefit.
Protection from Respiratory Problems. Researchers have also found in a study with 6- and 7-year-old children in Italy that the more kiwi or citrus fruit the children ate, the less likely they were to have respiratory-related problems including wheezing, shortness of breath, or night coughing. Children who had asthma when the study began appeared to benefit the most, even in those who ate fruit only once or twice a week!
Protection from Macular Degeneration. Researchers have found that eating three or more servings of fruit per day may reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration, the main cause of vision loss in older adults. This study, as reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology involved over 110,000 subjects. Researchers evaluated participants’ consumption of fruits, vegetables, and the antioxidants Vitamins A, C, and E, and carotenoids, and compared that with the development of age-related macular degeneration. Food intake was recorded for 18 years for women, and 12 years for men. Interestingly, fruit intake (more than vegetable intake) was found to be the most protective against the severe form of the disease. Three or more servings of fruit a day was found to be the most protective. Since kiwi fruit is so high in Vitamin C, it is one to seriously consider eating on a regular basis, especially if you are at risk for age-related macular degeneration.
Cardiovascular Health. Enjoying a couple of kiwi fruit each day may significantly reduce your risk for blood clots while reducing the amount of fats (triglycerides) in your blood. This combined effect helps to protect cardiovascular health. Aspirin is often recommended to help reduce blood clotting, but can have unwanted side effects like stomach irritation and intestinal bleeding. However, the side effects of enjoying kiwi fruit on a regular basis are all beneficial. The high levels of Vitamin C, polyphenols, and potassium in kiwis work together to help protect the blood vessels and heart. In one study, volunteers who ate 2 to 3 kiwi fruit each day for 28 days reduced their platelet aggregation response (potential for blood clot formation) by 18% compared to controls who ate no kiwis. Also, triglyceride levels dropped by 15% in those who ate the kiwis, when compared to the controls. This is all the more reason to eat kiwi fruit on a regular basis!
Kiwis are also a very good source of fiber. Eating enough dietary fiber throughout the day can help to reduce high cholesterol levels, which in turn may reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack.
Other Health Benefits. Fiber is also known for binding and removing toxins from the colon, which can help prevent colon cancer. Fiber-rich foods, like kiwi fruit, are a healthy way to keep blood sugar levels under control in diabetic patients. With kiwis having a low glycemic index, they should be safe for diabetics to consume. When in doubt, check with your healthcare provider before making changes to your diet.
How to Select Kiwi Fruit
When buying kiwis, hold them between your thumb and forefinger. Gently apply pressure. If it yields gently to pressure, it is ready to be eaten and will have the sweetest flavor. Those that are very soft, shriveled or have bruised or damp spots are overripe and will not be the best choice.
Kiwis that do not yield when you apply gentle pressure with your hand are not yet ready to be eaten. They will not have reached their peak of sweetness. They can be purchased and left to ripen for a few days to a week at room temperature. Monitor them daily and enjoy them when they are at their best…when they yield slightly to gentle pressure.
How to Store Kiwi Fruit
Store kiwis at room temperature if they need to ripen up some. Keep them away from sunlight or heat sources. If you want to speed up the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with an apple, banana, or pear. The ethylene gas released by the other fruit will hasten the ripening of your kiwis. Monitor them daily. When they give to slight pressure when held between your thumb and forefinger, they are ripe and ready to eat. If you need to keep them longer, transfer them to the refrigerator. Kiwis may also be cut in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.
Ripe kiwis will keep for several days at room temperature, and up to four weeks in the refrigerator.
How to Prepare and Use a Kiwi
Kiwis are delicious no matter how they are eaten.
* They can be peeled with a paring knife, sliced, then enjoyed on their own or as part of a fruit or vegetable salad of your choice. If you are adding kiwi fruit to any salad, it’s best to enjoy it right away. Enzymes in cut kiwis act as a food tenderizer, which acts on the kiwi itself in addition to other foods. So, when adding kiwi to a salad, if you prepare the salad in advance, wait until the last minute to add your kiwi.
* Kiwis may also be cut in half and the flesh scooped out with a spoon.
* The skin of kiwis may also be eaten. They are full of nutrients and fiber, and are very thin so they are not hard to chew. If preferred, the outer fuzz can be rubbed off before eating.
* Kiwis may be cut up in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.
How to Preserve Kiwi Fruit
Kiwi fruit can be used to make jams, jellies, and preserves. Oregon State University Extension Service has some simple recipes for these ideas at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/8836/sp50832preservingkiwifruit.pdf
Kiwis may also be frozen, dehydrated, and made into chutney. Oregon State University Extension Service provides details on how to prepare kiwis in these ways at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/8836/sp50832preservingkiwifruit.pdf
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Kiwi Fruit
* When stored at room temperature, kiwis will continue to sweeten.
* For a simple way to enjoy a kiwi, simply cut it in half around the middle, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Enjoy!
* Enjoy a kiwi parfait! Layer yogurt or pudding, chopped kiwi, and some granola. Add other fruit such as a banana, strawberries, blueberries, or grapes, if you want. Enjoy!
* Try a kiwi-mint slushie on a hot day. In a blender, add some ice, kiwis, frozen limeade, a little fresh mint, and some honey, sugar, or a date or two for sweetness. Blend for a refreshing treat.
* Try a kiwi smoothie by blending yogurt or your favorite milk, banana, kiwi, a handful of baby spinach leaves, and a couple ice cubes.
* Add kiwi slices to your favorite chia pudding.
* Try homemade kiwi juice. Blend three kiwis with up to 4 cups of water, 1 cup of ice, and some honey as desired. Blend briefly until smooth.
* Try kiwi-pineapple popsicles! Briefly blend 1-1/2 cups of pineapple juice with 4 peeled, cut kiwis. Add a little sugar or honey, if desired for added sweetness. Pour into popsicle molds, freeze, then enjoy!
* Add kiwi fruit to tossed green salads. If making the salad in advance, the kiwi may also be cut in advance, but store it in a separate airtight container in the refrigerator. Add it to the salad at the last minute when preparing it for serving.
* Make a simple dessert or snack by topping sliced kiwi fruit and strawberries with your favorite yogurt.
* Make a fruit chutney with chopped kiwi, orange, and pineapple. Serve as an accompaniment to chicken or fish.
* Try a fruit soup by blending kiwis with cantaloupe. Add yogurt for a creamy consistency.
* If a recipe calls for kiwis and you don’t have any or don’t have enough, you could substitute any of the following: gold kiwis, strawberries and gooseberries, dragon fruit (pitaya).
* Two whole kiwis = about ¾ cup chopped or sliced.
Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Kiwi Fruit
Basil, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, mint, rosemary, vanilla
Foods That Go Well with Kiwi Fruit
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beef, cashews, chicken, fish, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, nuts (in general), pistachios, poppy seeds, pork, seafood, walnuts
Vegetables: Celery, celery root, cucumbers, greens (esp. baby greens), jicama, kale, radishes, zucchini
Fruits: Apples, avocados, bananas, berries, cherries, citrus fruits, coconut, grapefruit, grapes, guava, lemons, limes, lychees, mangoes, melons (all types), oranges, papaya, passion fruit, peach, persimmon, pineapple, pomegranates, raspberries, star fruit, strawberries, watermelon
Grains and Grain Products: Cereals (breakfast)
Dairy and Non-Dairy Products: Cream, cream cheese, ice cream, yogurt
Other Foods: Brown rice syrup, chocolate, honey, Kirsch, maple syrup, rum, sugar, vinegar (balsamic), wine (sparkling wine, i.e., Champagne, sweet)
Kiwis have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Desserts, drinks, kebabs, marinades, puddings, salad dressings, salads (esp. fruit), sorbets, tarts (fruit)
Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Kiwi Fruit
Add kiwis to any of the following combinations…
Bananas + Orange Juice
Bananas + Strawberries
Honey + Lime
Mint + Yogurt
25 Best Kiwi Recipes https://insanelygoodrecipes.com/kiwi-recipes/
Kiwi and Lime Strawberry Salad https://www.thekitchenmagpie.com/strawberry-kiwi-lime-salad/#wprm-recipe-container-35558
Kiwi Cucumber Salad with Walnuts and Fresh Mint https://www.flavourandsavour.com/kiwi-cucumber-salad-with-walnuts-and-fresh-mint/#recipe
Kiwi Avocado and Tomato Salad with Kiwi Dressing https://saltedplains.com/kiwi-avocado-tomato-salad-recipe/
Winter Fruit Salad https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/winter-fruit-salad/#recipe
Kiwi Pineapple Salsa https://www.kimscravings.com/kiwi-pineapple-salsa-recipe/
Kiwi Lime Sorbet https://bromabakery.com/kiwi-lime-sorbet/
Prawn and Avocado Salad with Golden Kiwi https://thedevilwearssalad.com/prawn-avocado-kiwi-salad/
Fresh Fruit Platter Extraordinaire https://thedevilwearssalad.com/fresh-fruit-platter/#recipe
Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.