Story: Kiwifruit

Kiwifruit have been grown in New Zealand since the early 1900s – the first seeds were brought from China by a visiting school headmistress. She couldn’t have guessed how popular the unassuming-looking berry was to become. Today, kiwifruit are the country’s highest-earning horticultural crop and a marketing success story.

Full story by Hugh Campbell and Julia Haggerty
Main image: Kiwifruit flesh and seeds

The Short Story

A quick, easy summary
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The kiwifruit is a brown, fuzzy fruit, about the size of a large egg. You slice it open to eat it – the flesh is green or gold with a circle of tiny black seeds, and tastes sweet and slightly tangy.

Introduction and cultivation

Kiwifruit seeds were introduced from China in 1904, and were planted and grown. Known as Chinese gooseberries, they were a novelty crop until the 1950s. A nurseryman, Hayward Wright, cultivated vines with large, tasty fruit that kept well. This variety became known as the Hayward cultivar, and became the standard fruit for export.

Developments

The name Chinese gooseberry was changed to kiwifruit as a marketing strategy in 1959. Gold-fleshed kiwifruit were grown from imported seeds in the 1970s. With smooth skins and a more tropical taste, they have proven popular.

Growing and harvesting

Most kiwifruit orchards are near Te Puke, in the Bay of Plenty. The vines need fertile soil, shelter from the wind and protection from frost. Pests and diseases are controlled using biocontrol methods and insecticide only when necessary.

Female and male flowers grow on separate plants, so bees are often brought into the orchard to pollinate them. The pollinated flowers form into kiwifruit, which are harvested around May. They are picked by hand and put into large bags, which are taken away for grading, packing and storing. Kiwifruit appears in the shops from April to December.

Export

Kiwifruit exports boomed in the 1970s, but prices crashed in the late 1980s when other countries also began to grow and export the fruit. In 1988 the New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board (now called Zespri) was set up to distribute and market kiwifruit internationally.

You've read the short story, now
How to cite this page:

Hugh Campbell and Julia Haggerty. 'Kiwifruit', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-May-13
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/kiwifruit