Chinese Gooseberries, a.k.a. Kiwifruit in New Zealand

Looking back while moving forward: As I winnow out a bunch of old photographs, here is a look back.

It is wonderful to be passionate about your work…someone who loves their work really never “works” at all.

We were on a tour out of Tauranga, New Zealand’s third largest port.  They took us to a “winery,” actually only a store and restaurant.  It used to be all tours took you to cathedrals; now they go to wineries, and this one was even more dull than our 51st church.

But when we stopped at a family run kiwifruit orchard, the owner, Graham Crossman, boarded our bus and said, “my son was supposed to take you around but he isn’t around, so I will do it.”

His ardent fervor soon converted us to the religion of the wholly [holy?] nutritious and flavorful kiwi fruit.

Kiwifruit came to New Zealand as Chinese gooseberries.  But when New Zealanders wanted to export to the U.S., the tariff was higher on berries than on fruit.  So in the 1960s, they renamed the product Kiwi-fruit.

They grow on vines like grapes but are strung on wires about five feet overhead.  Crossman’s 11-acre orchard was one of about 2000 in an area that produced 350,000 tons of export quality – no bruises or cuts – kiwis a year.

The plants roots reach deep into the rich volcanic soil and needs no irrigation to get the large amounts of water they require.  Crossman boasted their quality was higher than kiwis from India and China which produce more.

There is one male for each four female plants, but the flowers produce no nectar.  Therefore, the farmer leased 35 hives, 80,000 bees altogether, at $160 per hive.  He paid a premium to rent his pollinating bees because there is no nectar and no honey is produced; indeed, he had to feed the bees sugar water to keep them alive.

The plants need a frost to kill pests and set the flowers, but a frost in the spring will spoil the fruit.  In some areas where late frosts are infrequent, they use helicopters to blow warm air from an inversion layer down onto the plants.  He had too many frosts to make the expensive helicopters practical, so he built a U.S, $55,000 fan that rotates every ten minutes circulating the air over his fields.

Through grafting plants over the previous seven years, 25 percent of the crop was now a patented gold fruit.  A Rutgers study of 13 common fruits found kiwifruit to be the most nutritious.

They are hand-picked from April through June, and Crossman said the government will not pay the “dole” during picking season because jobs are available if one wants to work.  Minimum wage was $13 an hour, and all unemployed must pick.

Click on Photos to enlarge.

I cannot adequately convey the enthusiasm in Graham Crossman’s voice as he took us among the plants.  We eagerly consumed kiwi-flavored products at the end of the tour, all sure we would add kiwis to our diets when we got home.  Alie and I had scones with kiwi-fruit jam and clotted cream, probably negating the nutrition value of the berries.

Now years later, we eat an occasional kiwi, but it isn’t the same as it was in Graham Crossman’s passionate presence.

New Zealand Kiwi statue

Date of our visit 8 Feb 2011

About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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12 Responses to Chinese Gooseberries, a.k.a. Kiwifruit in New Zealand

  1. Excellent post Ray. Until now I’ve also found it hard to get excited about Kiwi fruit, but I’ll definitely be putting a few in my shopping bag later today. They’re one of those alleged “super-foods” which I generally tend to avoid, as they need to be at perfect ripeness not to be quite unpleasant; too hard and they’re so sour as to be virtually inedible, whereas with overripe fruit, and one risks serious “after effects”. Fortunately, here in the UK much of ours come from New Zealand, so perhaps the ones I by today will be from Graham Crossman’s farm?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. PS: I was told that they contain 15 times the amount of vitamin c than the average orange, but that to achieve this input, one needed to eat the skin too! I wondered if Graham Crossman mentioned this possible factoid?

    Liked by 1 person

    • ralietravels says:

      He did not mention the skin, that I recall. I have eaten the skin as well, but don’t recommend the fuzzy texture. Writing this, I realized I haven’t purchased one in a long time. I will probably try one again soon.


  3. I like kiwis…lived with a French exchange student for a year who introduced me to them. I didn’t know that’s what gooseberries are!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love that humour in the kiwi statue

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Garfield Hug says:

    Such a nice travel piece. I was in Kiwiland in 2018 but did not get to see that statue though. Thanks for the share.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I confess, I’ve never been that excited about Kiwi fruit, Ray. But I enjoyed hearing about the passion of the owner. And the expense of growing the fruit! I have a good friend who owns a large nursery and grows Kiwi Fruit. He used to give us a flat full every year. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fascinating. I had no idea that kiwis were berries! Your descriptions put me in the mood to buy some, it has been a while for me, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. neelstoria says:

    Informative posts. So many things about Kiwi’s I did not know. Graham Crossman’s love for his orchard reflects through your description.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Chinese Gooseberries, a.k.a. Kiwifruit in New Zealand — RalieTravels – jetsetterweb

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