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What’s green and fuzzy (or gold and hairless)?

Jan. 1, 2018

They’re funny and fuzzy, but oh so sweet. Kiwi time is here!

With its green flesh and distinctive brown skin, this oddball winter fruit hits its peak when most others are long gone. Its unusual taste is like a summer smoothie; part banana, strawberry and melon with a tropical twist. That makes fresh kiwi an interesting alternative for cold weather meals and munching.

California produces more than 98 percent of the American kiwi crop, almost totally in the Central Valley. Harvested in October and November (then kept in cold storage), fresh state-grown kiwi will be available through early May.

"Overall, the quality and the size are quite good," said Nick Matteis of the Sacramento-based California Kiwifruit Administrative Committee. "Packing just wrapped up this (last) week. It’s a good sized crop; not huge, but good. We’re not seeing a lot of really small fruit, which is good, too."

This year’s crop totaled more than 30,000 tons, on par with 2016. That may sound like a lot of kiwi, but it’s just a slice of the global kiwi supply of more than 1.3 million tons.

If you guessed that New Zealand leads the world in kiwifruit, you’d be wrong. The Kiwis rank third in production of their namesake fruit behind China and Italy, but most imported kiwifruit in the U.S. does come from New Zealand.

In recent years, a flood of imported Italian and Chilean kiwi dragged down prices in the U.S., Matteis noted. That put many California growers out of the kiwi business.

Italy became a major kiwi producer after plant disease wiped out vineyards and made those soils unsuitable for grapes. Italian imports tend to go to the East Coast and Midwest.

"Our No. 1 competition still comes from New Zealand," Matteis said. "We grow a lot of kiwis, but California can’t supply it all."

Originally called "Chinese gooseberry" (although no relation to gooseberries), kiwifruit were first introduced accidentally to New Zealand in 1904. According to kiwi lore, the principal of a girl’s school brought back some seeds from China as a souvenir.

In their native China, these hairy berries are called mihoutao — "macaque fruit" — a reference to the macaque monkeys that love to eat kiwifruit in the wild. (Only recently did China become the world’s leading commercial grower of kiwi, primarily for jam.)

Now, kiwifruit are grown extensively around the world in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Chile, Greece, France, Turkey and Iran all grow more kiwifruit than California.

About the size of a chicken’s egg when mature, kiwifruit grow on woody vines, much like grapes, and need extensive trellising to support the heavy fruit. Also like grapes, kiwi are a hands-on fruit, requiring careful pruning and harvesting. A nearby male vine is needed to pollinate female plants.

"The trellises are 5 1/2 to 6 feet tall so harvesters can walk underneath," Matteis said. "The vines form a big canopy. From a drone’s eye view, it looks like a big green blanket hovering over the ground."

Although about 60 varieties of kiwifruit are grown internationally, most of the California crop is the Hayward variety. The Haywards have a uniform oval shape and weigh 3 to 4 ounces apiece.

Mega Kiwi — an oversized hybrid — has been recently introduced to favorable reviews, Matteis said. "These are pretty exciting. They weigh just under a pound each. One Mega covers the palm of your hand."

Gold kiwis, a hairless kiwi with yellow flesh, have been test grown in Hanford under tents to mimic moister New Zealand growing conditions.

"The tents also block some of our intense sun and wind," Matteis explained. "They’re testing eight different gold varieties. Their production is expected to double to 500,000 (7-pound) trays of gold kiwis this year and it could be 1 million trays soon. They have no fuzz and they’re all sweet; they have less tartness than the Hayward.

"There’s also a red (fleshed) variety they’re testing," he added. "These new varieties are definitely exciting."

Only 171 California farms — most of them small — grow kiwifruit, down from 300 a decade ago. After withstanding the drought, some orchards in Butte and Yuba counties were lost to last winter’s heavy rains, Matteis said. The orchards stayed flooded for too long and kiwi vines can’t stand wet feet.

Our American appetite for kiwifruit continues to steadily grow, although on average we eat just about a pound of kiwis annually. It’s a nutritional powerhouse with more vitamin C per ounce than oranges and more potassium than a banana. As a winter fruit, it’s available when little else is fresh.

"There’s still a lot of potential in the (American) market," Matteis said. "Kiwis are analogous to artichokes. They look funny. You wonder, how do you eat it? Then you cut into it — and it’s pretty awesome."

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KIWI MINT LEMONADE

Makes 4 servings.

This refreshing (and green) lemonade is great straight or spike it with a splash of vodka for a kiwi cocktail.

Recipe courtesy California Kiwifruit.

1 cup water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves

3 California kiwifruit

2 to 3 lemons

Sparkling water

In a medium saucepan, heat water with sugar over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mint leaves. Let stand 20 minutes

Meanwhile, peel kiwifruit and cut into chunks. Puree in a food processor. Place puree in a pitcher. Strain cooled syrup into pitcher, pressing on mint, then discard leaves. Refrigerate until cold. Squeeze juice from 2 lemons. Stir into kiwifruit mixture. Taste, squeeze in juice from remaining lemon for a tarter lemonade.

Pour into glasses. Top with sparkling water. Serve garnished with a slice of kiwifruit. Makes about 2 1/4 cups (550 mL) without sparkling water, enough for 4 drinks.

MEDITERRANEAN KIWI COUSCOUS

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This colorful salad travels well, which makes it a good pick for festive gatherings.

Recipe courtesy California Kiwifruit.

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup couscous

Salt

3 California kiwifruit

1 yellow or orange pepper

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup Kalamata olives, preferably spicy

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

Pepper

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup shredded fresh basil

In a small saucepan, lightly salt water then bring to a boil. Add couscous, stir, cover and remove from heat. Let stand until water is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Peel kiwifruit and cut into bite-size chunks. Dice pepper and slice large cherry tomatoes in half. Pit olives if needed and thinly slice green onions. Place all in a medium bowl.

For dressing, whisk vinegar with oil, garlic, oregano and generous pinches salt and pepper. When couscous has cooled, gently stir with kiwifruit mixture. Toss with as much dressing as needed to just coat. Stir in feta and basil; serve.

Note: Salad will keep well refrigerated for 1 to 2 days.

HOLIDAY KIWIFRUIT SALAD

Makes 4 to 5 servings.

This winter fruit salad provides pretty red and green contrasts for the holiday table.

Recipe courtesy California Kiwifruit.

1 fresh winter pear, cored and cubed

1 red apple, cored and thinly sliced

Lemon or lime juice

1 can (8 ounces) jellied cranberry sauce, divided

2 California kiwifruit, pared and sliced

Red leaf lettuce

1/3 cup dairy sour cream

Dip pear and apple in lemon juice to prevent darkening. Reserve 3 tablespoons cranberry sauce; slice remainder into quarter slices. Arrange kiwifruit, cranberry sauce slices, pear and apple on lettuce.

For dressing, combine sour cream with 3 tablespoons reserved cranberry sauce and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Drizzle over fruit and serve.

KIWIFRUIT WINTER TART

Makes 1 (10 inch) tart or 10-12 servings.

This beautiful tart will be a winter showstopper.

Recipe courtesy California Kiwifruit.

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

Sugar

Pastry cream

6 to 7 medium-sized California kiwifruit, pared and divided

Water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Combine flour, nuts, butter and 1/3 cup sugar with pastry blender until mixture resembles cornmeal. Press into a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.

Puree 2 kiwifruit; add water to equal 1/2 cup. Combine with 1/4 cup sugar and cornstarch. Cook and stir until mixture thickens and boils. Cool. Slice remaining kiwifruit. Spread pastry cream in cooled shell. Glaze with cooked kiwifruit puree. Arrange kiwifruit slices over top of tart. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pastry Cream: Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon salt in saucepan. Stir in 2 cups milk; cook until mixture thickens and begins to boil. Stir small amount of hot mixture into 4 beaten egg yolks; return to pan. Cook and stir until thickened; stir in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Cool. Makes 2 cups.

KIWI KLIMAX

Makes 2 servings.

With their distinct color and tropical flavor, kiwifruit are a favorite of inventive mixologists. This cocktail tastes as good as it looks.

Recipe courtesy California Kiwifruit.

1 kiwifruit, pared and sliced

2 or 3 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 or 2 ounces white rum

8 ice cubes, crushed

2 kiwifruit slices

Blend all ingredients except kiwifruit slices in a blender until smooth. Serve in stemmed glasses; garnish edge of each glass with kiwifruit slice.

KIWIFRUIT JAM

Makes 8 cups (4 pints or 8 half-pints).

What to do with too many kiwis? This pretty jam makes a tasty gift. It also doubles as a glaze on ham, pork, ribs or chicken. "Uncooked" jam has a brighter green color and a fresher kiwifruit taste than "cooked" jam, which has been processed in a boiling water bath. Uncooked jam must be stored in the freezer or refrigerator.

4 1/2 cups peeled, crushed kiwifruit (about 4 pounds)

1 box powdered pectin

7 cups sugar

In large, heavy kettle heat fruit for 3 minutes. Add pectin and mix well. Place on high heat and stir until mixture comes to a hard boil.

Add sugar all at once. Bring to full rolling boil that can not be stirred down. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove form heat and quickly skim off foam.

Pour at once into hot sterilized pint or half-pint jars and seal. Process in boiling water bath 5 minutes.

KIWI BERRY SHORTCAKE

Makes 6 servings.

The green, red and white of this colorful dessert makes it perfect for holiday occasions.

2 cups buttermilk baking mix

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup milk

5 to 6 California kiwifruit

Raspberry Sauce (recipe below)

Frozen whipped topping, thawed

Fresh or frozen whole raspberries

Mint leaves to garnish

To make biscuits, stir together baking mix and sugar in a bowl. Add milk and stir until soft dough forms. Place on board slightly dusted with flour. Roll dough in flour and shape into ball; knead 10 times. Pat to 1/2-inch thick. Cut out 5-6 biscuits with lightly floured 3-inch round shaped cookie cutter. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 450°F for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.

Peel and slice kiwifruit thinly. Drizzle a small amount of Raspberry Sauce on dessert plates. To assemble shortcake, slice biscuit in half crosswise. Place bottom half of biscuit on sauce. Top with several slices of kiwifruit. Dollop with a bit of whipped topping and drizzle with a small amount of sauce. Top with other half of biscuit. Dollop top with a little more whipped topping and add a few more slices of kiwi. Garnish with raspberries and mint.

Raspberry sauce: In food processor or blender, puree 1 package (10 ounces) frozen red raspberries in syrup, thawed. Over saucepan, strain berries through a fine sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon. Discard seeds. Stir in 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Bring to boil, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Cool; cover and chill.

KIWIFRUIT MESS

Makes 4 to 6 servings

This variation on a classic English dessert shows off kiwi’s color as well as flavor.

Recipe from Fresno Bee

4 cups peeled, bite-sized pieces of kiwifruit, or a mix of kiwifruit and other fruit (see notes)

1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste, depending on the mix of fruit

2 cups chilled whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups broken pieces of crisp, plain meringues (see notes)

While peeling and cutting the fruit, chill a large mixing bowl in the freezer.

Place the kiwifruit pieces (or fruit mixture) in a separate bowl. Gently stir in sugar. Set aside.

Remove the chilled mixing bowl from the freezer, then pour in cream and vanilla extract. Whip until cream is thick and soft. Fold in meringue pieces.

Place alternating layers of the cream mixture and fruit in dessert glasses. Top with dollops of cream. Alternatively, fold 3 cups fruit into the cream mixture. Scoop the mixture into dessert glasses; top with remaining fruit.

Serve immediately.

Notes: Kiwifruit pairs well with oranges and strawberries. Try this recipe with a mixture of kiwifruit and hulled, chopped strawberries. Or make a batch with a mixture of kiwifruit and bite-sized pieces of orange segments.

Homemade or store-bought meringue shells or cookies are suitable for this recipe.

KIWI LIMEADE PIE

Makes 8 servings.

When this recipe was originally published by Midwest Living, it was dubbed "Kiwi summer pie," but it’s good any time of year – especially when kiwis are in season.

Recipe courtesy Midwest Living

6 tablespoons coarsely chopped macadamia nuts, divided

1 (9-inch) baked pastry shell

1 (6-ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate, thawed

1 (4-serving-size) package vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup powdered sugar

3 medium kiwifruit (peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced), divided

1 (6-ounce) carton lime low-fat yogurt

1 1/2 cups frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the macadamia nuts in the bottom of the pastry shell.

In a small bowl, whisk together limeade concentrate and vanilla pudding mix. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Beat in powdered sugar, followed by limeade mixture. Transfer 3/4 cup of the mixture to another medium bowl; set aside. Spoon remaining mixture into the pastry shell. Top with two of the kiwifruit.

Beat yogurt into the reserved 3/4 cup cream cheese mixture until combined. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon over filling in pastry shell. Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours. Garnish with remaining kiwifruit and nuts. Makes 8 servings.

PINEAPPLE AND KIWI WITH BASIL SYRUP

Makes 6 servings

Use basil leaves to taste for garnishing this dessert, adapted from a recipe by Deborah Madison.

Recipe from Chicago Tribune

3/4 cup water

3 to 4 tablespoons sugar

Grated zest and juice of 2 limes

1 pineapple, about 3 pounds

3 kiwi fruit, yellow, green or both

2 tablespoons kirsch or rum, optional

2 tablespoons slivered basil leaves, plus basil leaves and flowers for garnish

Heat water to a boil with the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved, 3-5 minutes. Add the lime zest. Turn off heat; steep while you prepare the pineapple.

Cut off the top of the pineapple. Slice down the sides to peel, removing the eyes as you go. Quarter lengthwise. Cut away the core. Slice into fan-shape pieces about 3/8-inch thick. Peel kiwi; slice into rounds. Intersperse them among the pineapple slices in a bowl or on a plate. Squeeze over the lime juice; drizzle with kirsch.

Add the slivered basil to the syrup; pour it over the fruit. Chill 1 hour. Garnish with basil leaves or flowers.

 

 


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