Actinidia arguta, (Tara Vine)
Actinidia kolomikta, (Arctic Beauty)
Actinidia polygama, (Silver Vine)
The kiwifruit is the fruit of a large woody vine, most commonly of the species Actinidia chinensis (order Ericales, family Actinidiaceae). The fruit is about the size of a hen's egg (about 6 cm long and 4.5 to 5.5 cm around), and is often not perfectly round. It has a hairy, dull-brown exterior that is not usually consumed. Inside, the flesh is bright green with rows of small, black, edible seeds. The texture of the fruit is soft and the flavor is sometimes described as a mix of strawberry, banana and pineapple. Kiwifruit is a rich source of vitamin C. Its potassium content by weight is slightly less than that of a banana. It also contains vitamins A and E, calcium, iron and folic acid.
The kiwifruit and other species of actinidia are native to south-east China, where it grows wild and is known as:
- Macaco monkey peach (猕猴桃 Mi2 hou2 tao2): the most common name
- Unusual fruit or wonder fruit (奇異果 qi2 yi4 guo3): the most common name in Taiwan and Hong Kong (奇异果 kay yee goh). A quasi-transliteration of "kiwifruit".
- Yang peach (阳桃 Yang2 tao2)
- Ghost peach (羊桃 yang2 tao2)
- Hairy pear (毛梨 mao2 li2)
- Vine pear (藤梨 teng2 li2)
The kiwifruit was previously called the "Chinese gooseberry", based on the flavor and colour of its flesh. However, New Zealand growers began calling it the kiwifruit in 1962 to give it more marketing appeal, and in 1974 the name kiwifruit was adopted as the trade name.
There are 94 recorded species of kiwifruit, but only the following are cultivated for their fruit:
- Actinidia chinensis, also called Actinidia deliciosa
- Actinidia arguta, Kokuwa or Tara Vine - smaller and with green edible skins
- Actinidia kolomikta, Kolomicta or Arctic Beauty
- Actinidia polygama, Silver Vine
Kiwifruit has male and female plants, and the plants are self sterile, so a male pollenizer must be planted for each 3 to 5 female vines. An exception is the Issai variety, which can self pollenize but lacks in vigor and is not a large producer.
Kiwifruit is notorious for the difficulty of pollination because the flowers are not very attractive to bees. Some producers blow collected pollen at the female flowers. But generally the most successful approach is saturation pollination, where the bee populations are made so large (by bringing honeybee hives to the orchards) that bees are forced to utilize this flower because of intense competition for all flowers within flight distance.