I hadn't realised that Kiwi Fruits originally came from China! It was once known as the Chinese Gooseberry and is native to the Yangtze River valley of northern China and Zhejiang Province on the coast of eastern China. The Chinese name, Yang Tao, means "strawberry peach", and was declared as the "National Fruit" of the People's Republic of China.
It was cultivated on a small scale in China at least 300 years ago, but still today most of the 1,000-ton crop is derived from wild vines and the plants may be seen climbing tall trees or sprawling over low scrub or rocks.
Specimens of the plant were collected by the agent for the Royal Horticultural Society, London, in 1847 and described from his dried material, In 1900, seeds gathered in Hupeh were sent to England by E.H. Wilson. The resulting plants flourished and bloomed in 1909. When both male and female vines were planted together, fruits were produced but usually only solitary vines were grown as ornamentals.
Seeds from China were introduced by missionaries into New Zealand in 1906 and some vines bore fruits in 1910.
Early nurserymen in New Zealand recognized the potential of the fruit and it soon became a popular backyard vine. It acquired the name Kiwi Fruit from the Kiwi — a brown flightless bird and New Zealand's national symbol, and also a colloquial name for the New Zealand people.
By 1940 there were many plantings, especially on the eastern coast of the North Island. The fruits were being marketed and were very popular with American servicemen stationed in New Zealand during World War II, Commercial exporting was launched in 1953, the fruits going mainly to Japan, North America and Europe, with small quantities to Australia, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.
In addition to New Zealand and California, Kiwi Fruit is also grown commercially in such areas as Italy, South Africa and Chile. Dordogne, Rhone and Loire rivers–totalling about 123 acres (50 ha). The fruit is also grown in California, Italy, South Africa and Chile.
It is even grown in France where interest in the Kiwi Fruit has been stimulated by the low returns from apple-growing. By 1971, there were small plantings scattered around south western and south eastern areas of the country–valleys of the Garonne, Dordogne, Rhone and Loire rivers.
If you haven't had one before Kiwi fruit consists of a hairy, brown peel containing green flesh, with white pulp in the centre, surrounded by black, edible seeds. The fruit has a sweet taste, similar to a mixture of banana, pineapple and strawberry.
It is also used to make wine – in China it was used as early as the Han Dynasty. There are also Kiwi Fruit Liqueurs and sparkling wines now on the market. Kiwi Fruit is also a natural meat tenderizer and cooks have therefore utilised it in savoury as well as sweet recipes.