Kiwi Trees

All about Kiwi Trees

First of all, Kiwi trees aren’t trees at all, but a tall growing bush or vine. You should think of Kiwi trees much in the way that you think of grape vines, in fact. Regardless of how you think of them, the Kiwi is still one of the most delicious fruits around and one of the great success stories of the past century.

The Remarkable Travels of the Yang Tao

The Chinese name for what is now known as the Kiwi fruit is Yang Tao.  For generations the Chinese in the far northern mountains near the Yangtze River, picked the Yang Tao and used it to add flavor to their diets. But the fruit remained unknown to the outside world.

Then in 1904 a New Zealand school marm, Isabel Fraser, worn down from years of running an under-funded all girls school in her home country, came with her sister to “rest” by doing mission work in the far north of China.  The mission-work proved to be very fruitful, however, when the hard working school administrator returned, like Jack with his magic beans, to New Zealand.

Little did she know the pots of gold that her magic stalks would one day produce or how closely these Chinese fruits would come to be associated with her homeland.  At first, Kiwi trees were just popular as garden vines that produced wonderfully tasty fruit.  After World War II, however, this popular New Zealand garden plant would become a worldwide sensation.

The Kiwi Fruit, What’s In a Name?

Kiwi trees were known as Chinese gooseberries to New Zealand growers and would probably have kept that name had it not been for the Korean War. To avoid negative political associations the exporters decided to go with the very Fifties sounding name of “melonettes”.  Would these fruits have been successful under this name?  Or would Kiwi trees have been left to New Zealanders’ gardens?  It is one of marketing history’s mysteries?

On the eve of the fruit’s export to the booming American post-World War II market, the San Francisco importer of the fruit, Norman Sondag brought up a new objection.  Sondag feared that the fruit would have the same tariffs as both melons and berries and that the increased price would depress sales and cut into profits, so he demanded the fruit be given a wholly new name with no prior associations.

So it is that the Kiwi was given the name of a Maori bird native to New Zealand.  With this new name, the fruit did not really take off until in the 1970’s when yet another forward looking woman, like the one who had introduced it into New Zealand at the turn of the century, convinced supermarkets to stock the exotic fruit. And so it is Frieda Caplan who we have to thank for the delicious Kiwi’s availability and popularity.

The Health Benefits of the Kiwi

We don’t just pick the fruit of Kiwi trees for the great taste, however.  Not that that wouldn’t be enough in itself. There are several health benefits as well. The fruit is packed with Vitamins A, C, E and K.  It is great supplement for those trying to diet in a healthy fashion. It is also, as you probably know, a great addition to yogurts.

But you probably know this. What you may not know:

Kiwi Fruit Help With Respiratory Problems

In an Italian study—Italy is the #1 exporting of Kiwi, responsible for almost half of all Kiwi worldwide—children with respiratory problems who were fed the fruit daily, showed a marked improvement in congestive problems that hampered nighttime breathing.

A Great Source of Anti-Oxidants

Because Kiwi fruit are so packed with Vitamin C, it is a great source of the sorts of anti-oxidants that prevent the harmful breakdown of healthy cells in the body.  Many health professionals prefer the Kiwi to more traditional sources of Vitamin C like oranges Vitamin supplements.

Protection against the Effects of Aging

Kiwi fruit also fights against the effects of aging.  Kiwi can help keep the skin tight and toned and decrease wrinkles.  And Kiwi can help fight age related macular degeneration.

 
Kiwi Kicks Banana’s Butt When It Comes to Potassium

Although people think of bananas when they are looking for a good source for potassium, Kiwi actually have higher concentrations of Vitamin K.  Studies have shown that potassium helps against a variety of health problems from reducing anxiety to helping prevent stroke.  The kiwi fruit helps with kidney, blood pressure and heart disorders because of its high levels of Vitamin K as well.

So let us celebrate the Kiwi’s strange provenance for all its unusual wonder and great qualities!


 

 


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