Kiwifruits (Actinida chinensis), are a member of the Actinidiaceae (Kiwi) Family, and developed from a smaller, less flavorful Chinese gooseberry. The genus name Actinida is from the Greek aktin, meaning, “ray,” describing the ray-like lines seen in the sliced fruit. The genus name, chinensis, means “of China.” Kiwis are named after the national bird of New Zealand where, in 1974, where they were introduced as a greenhouse plant.
Described by some as having a flavor somewhere between strawberry, banana, pineapple and melon, kiwis are cool, sweet and sour. They improve blood circulation, and are used to remove excess sodium from the body. Kiwis are also used therapeutically to treat high blood pressure, heartburn, and indigestion. In oriental medicine, they are recommended to treat breast and stomach cancer, as well as a tonic for developing children and postpartum women. Like papaya and pineapple, kiwi contains enzymes, similar to papain and bromelain, which aid the digestion of proteins and speed up the healing of sores, wounds and inflammation. Because of this enzyme, they cannot be used in gelatin or agar dishes, as they will inhibit the jelling effect. Kiwis are rich in fiber, vitamin C (twice that of oranges), and potassium.
Kiwis should be firm, but not too hard, yielding to pressure when pressed. Ripen at room temperature. Once ripe, they keep refrigerated for up to nine months. Commercial kiwis are a heavily sprayed crop, so look for organic. The peel is not edible, unless defuzzed and easier to peel if cut first. Enjoy kiwis plain, in fruit salads, desserts, as a garnish, in marinades, or juiced (with seeds and peel). They are now grown widely in California.