Friday, September 26, 2008

when is a Kiwi not a Kiwi?

I don't know if this is related to writing but this is so quotable that I'm going to post it. This is from a rather earnestly written treatise by a Chinese nutritionist on a Canadian website. She's obviously unaware of the connotations of "kiwi" and "chinese Kiwi" in their country of origin (the fruit I mean - now I'm getting confused!). Anyone who's ever travelled will know about the weird looks one gets when you describe yourself as a Kiwi.

Among my favourite quotes from this is the prospect of being larger and more misshapen than my NZ and chinese counterparts (really?),that all kiwis come from China in the first place, the fact I can be blended with banana, and being a local kiwi with extra vitamin kick.

When is a Kiwi not a Kiwi?

Contrary to popular belief, the kiwifruit (mi hou tao) is not in fact a Kiwi - that is, it is not native to New Zealand. Instead kiwis originated in China, in the Yangtze River region of the country around Zhejiang province.

At the beginning of the 20th century New Zealand missionaries in China brought seeds of the fruit, which they named the Chinese gooseberry, back to New Zealand. It was renamed the "melonette", and then the "kiwi" in a bid to avoid tax duties imposed on melons.

Chinese kiwis are larger and more misshapen than their highly bred New Zealand and Californian counterparts, but I would certainly advocate them as they are cheaper, will last longer in your fruit bowl and of course have racked up considerably less food miles. Frankly, I think they are tastier too.

Those of you who pop a daily vitamin C tablet would be better to swap this for a single local kiwi which will provide double your vitamin C quota, along with other beneficial anti-oxidants - beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, all of which help to protect your body from damaging free radicals in the environment.

For the size of the fruit the fiber content is also impressive with two kiwis containing the same amount as a serving of bran flakes. Add a sliced kiwi on top of your morning cereal, or use a blender to make fresh juice sweetening with a little honey if necessary.

For refreshing and healthy frozen desserts, try peeling and slicing kiwis in half, wrapping in cling film and simply freezing. Alternatively blend together kiwis, banana and yoghurt and freeze in lolly trays with sticks.

Kiwi may not seem a natural partner to savory foods but they contain the enzyme actinidin which breaks down protein and therefore acts as a brilliant meat tenderizer.

Mash up one kiwi with a little olive oil, lemon juice and cayenne pepper and use to marinade chunks of chicken for 30 minutes. Then thread alternative chunks of the chicken, firm kiwi and red onion onto skewers and grill. If you wish to avoid flavoring meat with kiwi, simply cut the fruit in half and use it to rub the meat half an hour before cooking.

This same enzyme is capable of digesting protein in a variety of other foods, so make sure that desserts combining kiwis with dairy products are eaten quickly else they may degenerate into a sloppy mess. Kiwi jelly is a definite no-go as the enzyme breaks down gelatin meaning it will never set.

The Chinese approach to the kiwis is pretty straightforward: It tends to be eaten whole, sliced in a fruit salad or juiced. Xi'an, in Shaanxi province, and the surrounding areas are renowned for their dried kiwi fruit (mi hou tao gan) and these can be found at many market stalls in the city.

Unfortunately vast amounts of sugar seem to be added during the drying process. You can experiment with drying kiwi fruit yourself, and bringing down the additional sugar.

Make a weak sugar syrup, and add one teaspoon of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) per 900ml. Cut the kiwis into thick slices, dip in the syrup and dry in the oven (at 120 C) or in the sun until dry and leathery.

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