The Kiwi Fruit

Actinidia deliciosa

Herbs gallery - The Kiwi Fruit

The kiwi fruit derives its name from a bird called 'kiwi' that is native to New Zealand, while the fruit itself is indigenous to China - precisely speaking the Yangtze River valley in the northern regions of China and the Zhejiang Province along the eastern China coast. As the fruit's name has been derived from the 'kiwi' bird, people in several parts of North America, South America and Europe refer to it simply as 'kiwi'. In China, the fruit is known as 'macaque peach'.

Near the beginning, plant growers in New Zealand like Bruno Just, Alexander Allison and Hayward Wright identified the abilities of this particular fruit as a result of which it did not take much time for the fruit to become a widely grown vine in the home gardens. During this period, nurserymen in New Zealand dispatched numerous kiwi fruit plants to the California-based Chico Plant Introduction Station and they may be found there till this day. Besides, New Zealand and United States, presently the kiwi fruit is cultivated at a commercial level in countries like South Africa, Chile and Italy, Russia, Spain, France, Israel and Australia.

In fact, the kiwi fruit is the edible fruit of species Actinidia Deliciosa as well as the hybrids developed between this species and others in the genus Actinidia. The kiwi fruit comprises a hairy, brownish peel that encloses a green fleshy tissue having a white pulp in the middle. Several small black and edible seeds are set around the white pulp. The kiwi fruit is sweet to taste, something like a blend of pineapple, banana and strawberry. Usually, this fruit is available for sale during the period between April and December. However, they are found in abundance during the period between June and October.

In all, ten different assortments of the kiwi fruit exist. Among these, the most common type of kiwi fruit that is usually available on the market is comparatively big around the size of an egg, sweet and green kiwi. Another type of the fruit that is less commonly available in the market is the gold kiwi. In fact, though not available in huge quantities, the gold kiwi is distinguishable by its bronze peel that encloses a vivid yellow fleshy tissue. This variety of kiwi is sweeter compared to the other types of the fruit.

Kiwi fruits are found growing naturally in the forests. The kiwi plant has a dynamic growth and found in the form of woody and coiled vines called 'liana' or as a climbing shrub. In fact, a healthy kiwi vine usually grows up to a height of nine to 12 feet and may cover an area comprising 10 to 15 feet wide and 18 to 25 feet long. When the fruit is cultivated commercially, the long plants are supported by lattices or trellises. The kiwi plant bears big, profound green and rubbery leaves that are oval or almost circular shaped with the diameters ranging from seven inches to 10 inches. The tender leaves and shoots of the plant have a covering of reddish hairs, but as they mature their color turns to deep green and do not have any hairs on the top facade. The underside of the leaves are silky white having faintly hued veins.

The kiwi plant bears somewhat large flowers having a diameter of about one to two inches and is found in white or cream hues. These flowers are slightly aromatic and may grow as singlets to triplets in the axils of the leaves. Depending on the climatic conditions where they are cultivated, the kiwi plants are usually in bloom for a number of weeks between the period of early May and June. Usually, the kiwi plants are dioecious in nature. This denotes that one plant bears only male or female flowers and in order to bear fruits both male and female plants need to be grown close to each other. However, some male plants of the species are able to bear fruits on their own, but these fruits are not tasty.

Kiwi fruits have an oblong or elongated shape and grow up to two-and-a-half inches in length. The fruits have a brown or bronze hue and the skin is swathed with tiny, but taut brownish hairs. The fleshy tissue enclosed by the skin of the fruit is normally firm till completely mature or ripe and have a sparkling, vivid green or, at times, yellowish, brownish or off-white hues. The pulp in the center of the fruit is juicy and gives out several delicate lines in pastel shades. Several tiny, black seeds that are also edible are found spread out between these fine lines. Kiwi fruits taste sweetish or acidic something with a hint of strawberry flavor.

Kiwi fruits contain several elements that are essential for our body. Apart from enclosing a number of vitamins, minerals and flavonoids, these fruits contain large amounts of vitamin C, more than what is present in oranges, potassium as contained in bananas as well as sufficient amounts of beta-carotene.

A number of researches conducted in Italy, primarily on children in the age group of six and seven years, have shown that consumption of kiwi fruits is beneficial for the respiratory tract. During the course of the study, it was found that children who were provided five to seven servings of kiwi fruits and citrus every week actually had 44 per cent less changes of wheezing or breathing difficulty compared to children who consumed less amounts of these fruits weekly. At the same time, it was found that children taking five to seven servings of the fruits experienced 32 per cent reduced shortness of breath, 41 per cent lesser occurrence of acute breathing problems or wheezing, 28 per cent reduced runny nose and 27 per cent less night time cough. In addition, even chronic cough was found to be reduced by around 25 per cent following the consumption of adequate amounts of these fruits. Incidentally, scientists could not trace these improvements in the use of vitamin C or potassium contained in the kiwi fruits and they believe that the improvements were owing to other elements contained in the fruit. These elements contained in kiwi fruit are yet to be ascertained.

While they are yet to ascertain the substances present in kiwi fruit that help in improving the respiratory problems, a section of the scientists believe them to be flavonoids. This view gains ground from the fact that the flavonoids have been found to shield the cells in our body from damage due to oxidative elements. In fact, this action of the flavonoids is regarded to be extremely effective in saving our DNA from harm and mutations.

Safeguard from age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)

A sequence of research findings printed by the Archives of Ophthalmology have established that it is possible to diminish the hazards of developing an eye ailment known as age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) by approximately 36 per cent if you eat at least three or even more portions of any fruit (the kiwi fruits included) every day compared to people who only take 1.5 portions of fruits or even less daily. In fact, ARMD is the most common reason for destruction of vision among adults and if not treated timely, may even result in blindness.

Over 110,000 men and women participated in this study that continued for a number of decades. During the course of the research, scientists were surprised to note that although vegetables did not have any relation with enhanced opposition to ARMD, several fruits that enclosed vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E, which are the most widespread vitamins having antioxidant properties, were appreciably effective in shielding the eyes from developing age-related macular degeneration or ARMD.

Antioxidant features of kiwi fruits

As discussed earlier, the kiwi fruit encloses significant amounts of three vitamins - vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin C. It may be mentioned here that vitamin C is an effective antioxidant that is soluble in water. Vitamin C is highly beneficial for our health as it has been established it protects our body from the harmful effects of free radicals. In fact, people who regularly consume foods containing vitamin C experience remarkable heath benefits, especially against diseases like cardiovascular disorders, obesity and cancer.

Although it has been established that vitamin E too possesses similar properties like vitamin C and has the same consequences, this substance is soluble in fat. Hence, it may be said that these two vitamins are compliment each other as far as their utility for our body is concerned. Since the kiwi fruits enclose both vitamin C and vitamin E in sufficient quantities, they help to guard our body from the detrimental effects of free radicals in all manners.

In addition to these vitamins, the kiwi fruit also encloses a significant amount of dietary fiber that aids in enhancing resistance against diseases (for example diabetes). The dietary fibers work by regulating the intensity of sugar in the bloodstream and also avoid developing colon cancer. As the dietary fiber attaches to noxious substances in the colon, it helps the body to get rid of its wastes and toxic substances. Moreover, it has been established that dietary fiber helps to lower the intensity of cholesterol, improve the health of people suffering from cardiovascular ailments and also diminishes the risk of heart attacks.

Health benefits from consuming kiwi fruits

Consumption of kiwi fruits is considered to be beneficial for our health, as it helps the body to avoid and fight against a number of ailments. Some of the health benefits of eating kiwi fruits are mentioned below:

  • Kiwi fruits enclose flavonoids that guard our DNA from damage and mutations;
  • The high dietary fiber content in kiwi fruits helps in avoiding colon cancer;
  • Consumption of kiwi fruits also thwarts asthma;
  • Vitamin C, A and E present in kiwi fruits helps us, particularly children, to avoid breathing troubles (wheezing) and coughing;
  • Kiwi fruits contain sufficient amounts of antioxidants and vitamins necessary to combat the harmful effects of free radicals.

Although kiwi fruits enclose immense nourishment value, many people do not realize this fact. Compared to oranges, the same amount of kiwi fruit contains much more vitamin C and in comparison to apples, it is richer in dietary fiber content. In addition, kiwi fruits also contain substantial amounts of potassium that is essential for avoiding high blood pressure or hypertension. The high dietary content and their exceptional moldy juice present in kiwi fruits works as a gentle, but effectual laxative and hence, it is a beneficial food for people who suffer from digestive problems.

Talking from the viewpoint of nourishment value of kiwi fruits, it encloses an equal amount of potassium as present in bananas and an approximately one-and-a-half times more vitamin C than the dietary reference intakes (DRI). While the fruit itself has a rich content of vitamin A and vitamin E, when crushed, the small black seeds of kiwi fruit yield oil that contains high amounts of alfa-linoleic acid - a vital Omega-3 essential fatty acid. Several researches have established that the kiwi fruits are beneficial in enhancing the conditions of children suffering from asthma. At the same time, the rich dietary fiber content in the fruit helps in diminishing the risk of developing colon cancer.

Here is a word of caution. It is important to remember that consumption of kiwi fruits may set off allergic reactions in a number of people, as these fruits enclose an enzyme called 'actinidin' that helps in dissolving protein. The usual symptoms of allergy caused by consumption of kiwi fruits may include itching or tingling of the mouth, palate and lips. However, in severe cases, the allergic reactions caused by consumption of kiwi fruits may also result in fainting.