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Last Updated on September 2, 2020 by Amy

Our next stop in the Tauranga region was Kiwifruit Country.  We’d seen kiwi orchards all along our drive in the North Island.  The plots are often surrounded by barrier trees that have been trained to be tall and thin.  The barrier trees block noise and wind to protect the trees.

What are Kiwis?

It doesn’t seem too complicated, but the word kiwi can actually refer to three different things: the kiwifruit, the kiwi bird, or the people of New Zealand, affectionately called kiwis.

Kiwifruits are small, oblong and fuzzy brown fruits. They don’t look like much until you cut them open.

The kiwifruit has a bright white center and tiny black seeds clustered around the core. The skin is very thin – some people even eat it, though most people peel the thin skin off before consumption.

History of the Kiwi

The kiwifruit is not native to New Zealand. Instead, it’s native from China, and was origianlly called Chinese gooseberries. Kiwi seeds were imported in the early 1900s. Seeds were also sent to the UK and US, though none of those growers were successful.

It wasn’t until 1959 that the Chinese gooseberry was rebranded as the kiwi fruit – named after the other small, round, and brown inhabitant of New Zealand – because gooseberries weren’t well-liked in the states.

Further reading:

How the Chinese Gooseberry Got Rebranded as the Kiwifruit

How Kiwis Came to America

Tasting

The kiwi farm had a small store where we got to do a tasting.  We tasted fresh kiwis, jams, chutney, juice, and dried fruit – but not just one of each.  We got to taste all of those items in two different varieties – green and gold. I didn’t know that gold kiwis existed but they are delicious, sweeter and less tangy than their green counterparts.

Walking in the Kiwi Orchard

Once the tour officially started, our guide led us around the orchard.  The trees grow straight up and they are trained to create a ceiling down each row.  The kiwifruits hang down, creating a canopy.

Rows of kiwi vines. These vines are 40 years old.
A ceiling of kiwi fruit.
The inside of an unripe golden kiwi.
The gold kiwis on the left have smoother skin, while the green kiwis on the right are hairier.

We learned so much about the process of growing kiwis.  About 65% of the kiwis grown in New Zealand are shipped to Europe.  A majority of the gold kiwis go to Asia, where people pay a premium for the sweeter flavor.  The kiwis are harvested over several months, in which entire rows are stripped at once.  The unripened fruit is put in cold storage for up to 9 months before it gets shipped out.  The kiwis are ripened via ethylene while underway.

Shopping and on to Taupo

We bought some dried green kiwis and fresh gold kiwis to enjoy while road tripping, and took off to drive through the center of the north island into the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

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