History of Kiwifruit

From ancient China to cutting-edge California, the story of kiwifruit is a rich and colorful saga for which new chapters continue to be written today. Enjoy this sweet, juicy stroll down memory lane!

Originally discovered in the Chang Kiang Valley of China, kiwifruit was considered a delicacy by the great Khans who relished its emerald green color and dazzling flavor. By the mid 1800s, the fruit had found its way into other countries which nicknamed it Chinese gooseberry, and it wasn't long before New Zealand growers were exporting the exotic fruit to specialized markets around the world.

Fast-forward to 1962, when a California produce dealer began importing New Zealand gooseberries to satisfy the request of a lone Safeway shopper. The dealer renamed the product "kiwifruit" because of its resemblance to the fuzzy brown kiwi — New Zealand's funny-looking national bird. By the late 1960s, California began producing its own kiwifruit in the Delano and Gridley areas.

Did you know that Vitamin C rich kiwifruit may help protect against asthma?
A study published in the April 2004 issue of Thorax that found that children eating the most citrus and kiwifruit (5-7 servings per week) had 44% less incidence of wheezing compared to children eating the least (less than once a week). Shortness of breath was reduced by 32%, severe wheeze by 41%, night time cough by 27%, chronic cough by 25% and runny nose by 28%. Children who had asthma when the study began appeared to benefit the most, and protective effects were evident even among children who ate fruit only once or twice a week.

Production of California Kiwifruit skyrocketed in the 1980s, rising 667% in just five years to keep up with soaring demand. As its popularity grew, so did its reputation for exceptional nutrition, as research found kiwifruit to be the most "nutrient dense" of all major fruits, containing more vitamin C than an orange and more potassium than a banana. In 1992, kiwifruit was ranked among the top ten most nutritious foods.

Despite the consistently-rising popularity of California Kiwifruit, the state is still considered a small player in the world kiwifruit market, trailing Italy, New Zealand and Chile by a significant margin. Currently there are fewer than 300 kiwifruit growers in California, each farming an average of just 13 acres. Even so, California produces around 98% of the kiwifruit grown in the U.S!

Due to California's fall kiwifruit harvest, it's available to consumers during the winter months — an uncommon time for "homegrown" fresh fruits — with a season extending from October through May. Being in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand and Chile harvest their kiwifruit in the spring, enabling world consumers to enjoy fresh kiwifruit all year long.