Actinidia arguta, (Tara Vine)
Actinidia kolomikta, (Arctic Beauty)
Actinidia polygama, (Silver Vine)
The kiwifruit is the fruit of a large woody vine, most commonly of the species Actinidia chinensis (order Ericales, family Actinidiaceae). The fruit is about the size of a hen's egg (about 6 cm long and 4.5 to 5.5 cm around), and is often not perfectly round. It has a hairy, dull-brown skin that is not usually consumed. Inside, the flesh is bright green with rows of small, black, edible seeds. The texture of the fruit is soft and the flavour is sometimes described as a mix of strawberry, banana and pineapple. Kiwifruit is a rich source of vitamin C. Its potassium content by weight is slightly less than that of a banana. It also contains vitamins A and E, calcium, iron and folic acid.
The kiwifruit and other species of actinidia are native to south-east China, where it grows wild and is known as:
The seeds were planted in 1906 by a Wanganui nurseryman, Alexander Allison, with the vines first fruiting in 1910. It was initially grown in domestic gardens, but commercial planting began in the 1940s. New Zealand is now the leading producer of kiwifruit, followed by France, the United States, Italy, Spain, and Japan. Kiwifruit is still produced in its birth place in China but China has never made it to the top 10 list of kiwifruit producing countries. In China, it is grown mainly in the mountainous area upstream of Chang Jiang. It is also grown in other areas of China including Sichuan and Taiwan.
The kiwifruit was previously called the "Chinese gooseberry", based on the flavour and colour of its flesh. However, New Zealand fruit and vegetables export company Turners and Growers began calling it the kiwifruit in 1959 to give it more marketing appeal. Growers gradually adopted the name and in 1974 the kiwifruit became the official trade name.
A new type with golden flesh and sweet flavour resembling a tropical fruit salad was produced by New Zealand horticulturalists and is being marketed worldwide in increasing volumes. Some wild vines in China have golden fruit but it is small and not commercially viable. Seeds from these plants were imported to New Zealand in 1987 and the horticulturalists took 11 years to develop the new fruit through cross-pollination and grafting with green kiwi vines. Golden kiwifruit has a smooth, bronze skin, a pointed cap at one end and distinctive golden yellow flesh. It fetches a higher market price than green kiwifruit.
There are 94 recorded species of kiwifruit, but only the following are cultivated for their fruit:
Kiwifruit has male and female plants which are self sterile, so a male pollenizer must be planted for each three to five female vines. An exception is the Issai variety, which can self pollenate but lacks vigour and is not a large producer.
Kiwifruit is notoriously difficult to pollinate because the flowers are not very attractive to bees. Some producers blow collected pollen over the female flowers. But generally the most successful approach is saturation pollination, where the bee populations are made so large (by placing hives in the orchards) that bees are forced to use this flower because of intense competition for all flowers within flight distance.