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PRODUCE CONCEPTS MAGAZINE
Kick start your menu with kiwifruit
Discover the fuzzy secret weapon to blast nutrition and flavor into your dishes
BY CHRIS CRAWFORD
Though originally called "Chinese gooseberries" or "Yang Tao," kiwi was named for its resemblance to the fuzzy, brown, flightless kiwi in the country of the fruit's origin&emdash;New Zealand.
The variety commonly available in the U.S. is grown predominately in New Zealand and California, though it also is available from Italy, Japan, France, Greece, Spain, Australia and Chile.
The fruit's introduction ro the U.S. came in 1961 when it was served at Trader Vic's restaurant in San Francisco, according to the California Kiwifruit Commission, EI Dorado Hills. In 1964, produce champion Frieda Caplan began importing New Zealand kiwifruit in bulk. In 1970, her company, Frieda's Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif., bought the first successful California harvest from George Tanimoto in Gridley.
There are three varieties of kiwiruit grown – the original hayward (Green) variety and newer gold and baby varieties. Organic versions of the green and gold also are available.
While the green variety is the world's most widely grown and marketed kiwifruit and is available year-round, the gold variety was developed in New Zealand in 1991 by exclusive marketer Zespri. It became widely available in the U.S. and Canada in 2000. Unlike the green, the gold kiwifruit has a smooth, bronze skin with one pursed end. The flavor is tropical – sweeter and less tart than the green. The gold is available June through January, says Karen Brux, general manager of Zespri North America.
The baby kiwifruit also has a smooth skin but is the size of a grape and resembles the green fruit. The baby kiwifruit grows predominantly in Oregon, Pennsylvania and British Columbia, says Brad Evers, sales manager at Hursr's Berry Farm, Sheridan, Ore. The babies have been offered on a large scale since late 1997 and Hurst's offers them in September and October.
The 2004-05 California crop of kiwifruit, available October through May, increased slightly from last season, yielding more than 42 million pounds, says Barbara Windmiller, assistant manager at the California Kiwifruit Commission. Per capita consumption figures aren't as impressive as the volume figures.
Per capita consumption declined 33% from 2000 to 2003, says Lindy LaFrancis, president of the commission. She attributes the decline to the commission's lack of funding to promote kiwifruit during the same period.
Incorporate kiwi into your dishes and focus on the healthful aspects of the varieties.
A 1997 Rutgers University srudy by Paul Lachance examined the nutrient density of the 33 most popular fruits and concluded that green kiwifruit packs the most nutrients per bite than any competitor.
A study at the University of Oslo in Norway published in August revealed that eating two to three kiwifruit a day could improve heart health similarly to a daily dosage of aspirin without the side effects. And don't forget about the furry hide of these fruits. The skin of the green and gold kiwifruit not only is edible, it houses additional vitamin C and triple the fiber intake per serving.
Kiwifruit also contains an enzyme called actinidin that makes the fruit a great meat tenderizer. Just peel and chop the kiwifruit into fine pieces and place on a cut of meat. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and then scrape the kiwifruit off.
Donna Dooher, owner-chef of Mildred Pierce Restaurant and The Cookworks cooking school, Toronto, makes a kiwifruit chimichurri sauce to flavor and tenderize strip loin or flank steaks. First, in a food processor she purees green onion, jalapenos, chipotle, garlic and a touch of red wine vinegar. Then she adds two peeled kiwifruit, parsley, oregano, salt, cracked black pepper, chopped lemon, cumin, coriander and olive oil and purees again. She pours the sauce onto a 1.5- to 2-inch steak and grills it over high heat. She cooks the meat six minutes, flipping it every 1.5 minutes and lets it stand for five minutes before cutting it into juicy slices.
Make sure you wear gloves when cutting kiwifruit because the same enzymes that break down proteins in meat can break down proteins in your skin and thus tenderize you, says the commission's LaFrancis.
Sloop the fruit
If serving the fruit alone, The commission describes slooping as the ideal way to enjoy kiwifruit. Slice the fruit in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.
Wendy Brodie, owner-chef of LincoIn Court Catering & Cooking Classes, Carmel, Calif, serves sloopable solo kiwifruit for brunch with a twist. She makes green and gold kiwifruit look like eggs. She stands the fruit upright with the flat end on the bottom and cuts off the top one-third in a zigzag pattern. With a melon baller, she scoops out round pearls of flesh and then refills the skin of the upright Fruit. Brodie serves the kiwifruit "eggs" with a mint sprig garnish. She also suggesrs topping the kiwifiuit "eggs" with juice for breakfast or liqueur or champagne for evening meals. You will need one additional kiwifruit for every two to fill the originals with enough pearls.
Dish it out
This underdog of the fruit world can hep you battle boring dishes and punch up ones missing a super ingredient.
Dooher of Mildred Pierce and Cookworks says she can whip up a topping for grilled tuna, halibut or shrimp in less than 10 minutes. She finely dices gold kiwifruit and mixes with fresh, shredded coconut, fresh curry leaves, mustard seeds, dried chilies, black pepper and a touch of yogurt. David Hawksworth, executive chef at West Restaurant and Bar, Vancouver, British Columbia, makes chutney by pureeing two gold kiwifruit with mint, jalapeno, ginger and garlic. He drizzles the chutney on a plate with poached or braised Iamb, grilled salmon or mushroom ragu. Hawksworth also prepares dried kiwifruit chips. Peel four kiwifurit and slice them thin. Place on a nonstack platic mat in a wrm area of the kitchen for six hours. Serve them as a garnish with tuna tartar or on a salad.
Brodie of Lincoln Court Catering & Cooking Classes prepares a Southwestern seafood ceviche with kiwifruit. Poach diced shrimp or prawn meat for two minutes and drain and cool. In a large bowl combine the shrimp with diced salmon, scallops, white fish, red onion and chili pepper and add lime juice. Marinate in the refrigerator up to three hours. Before serving, drain lime juice and add cilantto, sugar, salt and pepper. Add the kiwifruit, lime and orange segments and carefully mix. Serve the kiwifruit ceviche in crisp tortilla shells.
Brodie also recommends using kiwifruit as an attention-getting decoration on a plate. Slice green and gold kiwifruit into thin squares, triangles or circles. Alternate green and gold slices on the plate to create a fun and edible visual effect. Brodie says using both kiwifruit colors together helps promote gold kiwifruit to diners who might only be familiar with the green variety. Place a salad or a fruit dessert on top of the ornamental kiwifruit plate.
Zespri's Web site, www.zesprikiwi.com, offers many kiwifruit recipes, including Double Whammy Zespri Kiwi Soup with Cranberry Oil by Tracey MacDonald, former Sous chef at Imperial Golf Club, Naples, Fla. To prepare the prize-winning kiwi soup with cranberry oil, peel five green kiwifruit and blend with champagne, plain yogurt and honey. Separately peel five gold kiwifruit and blend with champagne, plain yogurt and honey. To prepare the cranberry oil, cook the cranberries with orange juice and sugar until it boils. Puree and strain the mixture through a chinois. Chill the cranberry/orange juice mixture and blend with canola oil. Serve half green and half gold kiwifruit mixtures in chilled bowls. Swirl the two mixtures together with a pick and drizzle the cranberry oil in the center of each bowl. To finish the dish sprinkle toasted coconut flakes around the rims of the bowls.
You should know
Yield information from "The Book of Yields" by Francis T. Lynch
Produce Concepts January/February 2005