Top Kiwifruit Growing Regions & Recipes
Did You Know
New Zealand is more than home to where Zespri™ Kiwifruit got its start—it’s also home to Te Puke, the “Kiwifruit Capital of the World.” But New Zealand didn’t always know and grow kiwifruit.
NEW ZEALAND: A NEW CONTINENT FOR KIWIFRUIT
A principal of Wanganui Girls’ College, Mary Isabel Fraser, brought home the souvenir of a lifetime when she introduced her students to Actinidia deliciosa seeds following a 1904 visit to Chinese mission schools. But the seeds weren’t planted until 1906, and the vines didn’t fruit until 1910. Initially, the fruit was thought to resemble the taste of gooseberries, so kiwifruit was originally dubbed the “Chinese gooseberry.”1
With its rich volcanic soil and mild climate, New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty area enabled the Chinese gooseberry to thrive. In 1928, horticulturalist Hayward Wright developed an extraordinary cultivar of the Chinese gooseberry, regarded for its shape, flavor and long shelf-life. The fruit was marketed to the U.S. and U.K. in the 1950s, sparking international demand. In 1959, the Chinese gooseberry was officially renamed “kiwifruit” as an ode to New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi.2
Today, New Zealand has an estimated 2,800 kiwifruit growers who operate 32 thousand acres of orchards!3 What’s more, New Zealand kiwifruit growers produce kiwis for taste first and foremost—not the highest yield or biggest fruit, but rather the best-tasting kiwis. To ensure product traceability, Zespri has a robust tracking system in place—every single carton of kiwifruit can be traced to a specific part of the orchard it was grown.2 SunGold Kiwifruit is picked first, then the green variety is harvested in late-March, which traditionally runs through June.3
ITALY: NEW ZEALAND KIWIFRUITS’ "WINTER HOME"
For decades, Italy has been known for its iconic vineyards along with its vibrant orange and lemon groves. But today, Italy’s southern landscape is also flourishing with another form of agriculture: kiwifruit vines.
Agronomist and researcher Ottavio Cacioppo introduced kiwifruit production to Italy in 1971 while exploring new crops to revitalize the countryside. Following considerable testing, Cacioppo discovered kiwifruit had remarkable potential in the Pontine Plains of south-central Italy. Today, Italy is the world’s second-largest kiwifruit producer.5
Though kiwis and grapes may seem very different, their production has some big similarities: both are planted in long, furrowed rows, with trunks that latch to posts for additional support, and branches that spread into canopies. But there’s one key difference between growing kiwifruits and grapes: profit. Although kiwis require much more water than grapes, kiwifruit production can be up to 3 times more profitable!6
Similar to the climate of northeast New Zealand, coastal temperatures south of Rome are mild. The soil is also super fertile since the fields were once marshland and home to volcanic activity.5,6 What makes Italy an even more ideal home for kiwifruit production is that its growing season is nearly the complete opposite of New Zealand’s, extending our season into the early winter months.
LOCALLY GROWN, GLOBALLY RENOWNED KIWIFRUIT RECIPES
No one can cook with kiwifruit quite like the New Zealanders and Italians. In Italy, you can find farmers’ markets displaying homemade kiwi jams and cookies, ice cream shops offering kiwi gelato, and upscale restaurants featuring kiwi in elaborate dishes.5 Inspired to start experimenting in the kitchen with Zespri kiwifruit yourself? For a refreshingly sweet bite, Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit is your answer. If you’re looking for a tangy sweet taste, you’ll want Zespri Green Kiwifruit.
No matter which variety you choose, you’ll savor a flavor that packs more than 20 vitamins and minerals!7 In fact, you can get 100% of your daily vitamin C needs in just one kiwifruit (SunGold packs more vitamin C than a medium orange*) and is one of the most nutritionally dense fruits among commonly eaten fruits8. After all, why can’t good food—even dessert—be better for you? Here are several New Zealand and Italian kiwi recipes to enjoy in your own home:
Signature New Zealand Kiwifruit Cuisine:
- SunGold Kiwifruit Pavlova Parfait Recipe
- Kiwifruit Chutney with Lamb Kabobs Recipe
- SunGold Kiwifruit and Manuka Honey Meringues Recipe
Signature Italian Kiwifruit Cuisine:
- New Zealand History. Chinese gooseberry becomes kiwifruit. https://nzhistory.govt.nz/the-chinese-gooseberry-becomes-the-kiwifruit. Updated June 9, 2020. Accessed March 21, 2022.
- Fruitnet.com. NZ kiwifruit: how a major brand emerged. http://www.fruitnet.com/eurofruit/article/172018/nz-kiwifruit-how-a-major-brand-emerged. Updated April 25, 2017. Accessed March 21, 2022.
- FreshPlaza.com. New Zealand expects largest ever kiwifruit harvest. https://www.freshplaza.com/article/9299512/new-zealand-expects-largest-ever-kiwifruit-harvest/. Updated March 4, 2021. Accessed March 21, 2022.
- Produce Report. Zespri wraps up New Zealand kiwifruit season with final shipment. https://www.producereport.com/article/zespri-wraps-new-zealand-kiwifruit-season-final-shipment. Updated December 5, 2021. Accessed March 21, 2022.
- South China Morning Post. How the kiwi fruit from China, rebranded by New Zealand, flourishes in Italy, now world’s No. 2 producer. https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/food-drink/article/3029901/how-kiwi-fruit-china-rebranded-new-zealand-flourishes-italy. Updated September 24, 2019. Accessed March 21, 2022.
- The Seattle Times. Italy leads world as top producer of kiwis. https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/italy-leads-world-as-top-producer-of-kiwis/. Updated May 26, 2008. Accessed March 21, 2022.
- FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service website. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168211/nutrients. Updated March 2019. Accessed March 15, 2022.
- Raw Fruits Poster. FDA website. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/raw-fruits-poster-text-version-accessible-version. Updated December 13, 2017. Accessed March 21, 2022.
*1 medium orange FDC ID: 1102597 [154 grams], 81.9 mg vitamin C; 1 serving Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit FDC ID: 168211 [162 grams – 2 medium kiwifruits], 261 mg vitamin C.