As you know, our company roots run very deep when it comes to Kiwifruit. It was back in 1962 that my mom, Frieda, was first introduced to the Chinese Gooseberry, which was then being commercially grown in New Zealand. She immediately imported her first shipment of about 240 boxes, but it took her more than four months to sell them. That’s how she discovered that Kiwifruit has a great shelf life!
The next season, she suggested that the Kiwifruit growers produce some marketing materials to help educate the produce buyers and consumers on how to handle them. Kiwifruit needs to be ripened so it’s soft enough to eat, and people needed information on how to enjoy them – more than just a neat-looking garnish. In the early years, we even told people that Kiwifruit tasted like strawberries so they had something familiar to compare them to. Today, Kiwifruit tastes like Kiwifruit!
And about that name … Chinese Gooseberry. It was problematic for us since the fruit was not from China and not related to gooseberries. My mom is credited with helping change the name to Kiwifruit, after the Kiwi, New Zealand’s national bird, which similarly has brown “fur.”
Over the years more and more Kiwifruit was being grown around the world and our company began playing a relatively smaller role in its marketing. But, we’ve always continued to sell Kiwifruit.
Back in 1993, we got a call from a local backyard farmer named Roger Meyer. He had developed a small crop of yellow-fleshed Kiwifruit, which he had been researching for more than 10 years. We worked with Roger for many years, marketing and selling his annual crop of a few hundred cases of Yellow Kiwifruit.
Today Gold (Yellow) Kiwi has become quite a large business, and Zespri in New Zealand is growing hundreds of thousands of pounds of this fruit not only in New Zealand but also in California.
A few years earlier (1988), we got word of another variety of kiwi called “Hardy Kiwi” coming out of Oregon. It was called “Hardy” because the rootstock held up fairly well to different growing conditions. But, we didn’t like the name…
So, the fruit was renamed Baby Kiwifruit and, funny thing -- they actually resemble green gooseberries!
Baby Kiwifruit are typically green and fuzzless and about the size of grapes. The inside flesh is green, with small edible black seeds, just like regular kiwifruit. They are only available for a short window of time -- and the U.S. season typically starts in late September and goes through October. Growers have found that it’s easiest to pack them in clamshell trays, just like other berries.
Of course, Baby Kiwifruit are also kid-friendly, and a great way to make your fruit salads more interesting. Or, you can just eat them out of hand, although I sometimes find them reminiscent of green eye balls…
The first shipment of the season arrived in our warehouse on September 27, and we are already shipping them cross-country! If you can believe it – our biggest customers for these cute fruits are in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania!
Look for Baby Kiwifruit near the berries in your produce department (they need to be refrigerated). If you don’t see them, please go ask your produce manager or store manager to order them for you.
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