Time is ripe for nutritious, delicious kiwis

Courtesy of Zespri International Japan K.K.
A kiwifruit and avocado salad

Kiwifruit is growing increasingly popular, with 2020 marking a record high for imports. While sweeter varieties have been hitting the market, people are enjoying the fruit not just in desserts, but also in savory dishes. More and more people are health conscious amid the pandemic, and kiwifruit helps give us some much-needed nutrition during the day.

A 31-year-old office worker in Tokyo says she always has kiwifruit at home.

“They are rich in fiber and vitamin C,” she said. “I cut the fruit in half and eat it with a spoon. That’s it. I like how easy it is to eat.”

Sales of kiwifruit in 2020 at the Queens Isetan Koishikawa supermarket in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, were up 14% from the previous year, and the shelf space set aside for the fruit has expanded each year. Kiwifruit grown in New Zealand are available from April to November while those produced in Japan, such as in Ehime and Kagawa prefectures, hit the shelves at other times of the year.

“Kiwifruit are available throughout the year, like bananas and apples,” said Takara Shirane, a store official in charge of fruits and vegetables. “They are good for you, reasonably priced and easy to eat.”

In recent years, sweeter varieties have been developed, and ripening technologies have been refined. The idea of kiwifruit being sour has also diminished, which has likely helped boost its popularity. The Sun Gold Kiwi, which was launched in 2012, is a variety featuring juicy yellow flesh that is well-balanced between sweet and sour.

Kiwifruit import volumes in 2020 went up 6.5% from the previous year and hit a record high of 113,432 tons, according to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry. Of them, more than 90% came from New Zealand. The 2020 Family Income and Expenditure Survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry found the average spending per household with two people or more on kiwifruit was ¥2,138, up about ¥600 over the past five years.

Various desserts featuring the fruit have also appeared. The Takano Fruit Parlor Shinjuku main store in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, says a fruit parfait using kiwifruit is fairly popular especially among women.

“People strongly associate kiwifruit with feeling refreshed,” a store official said.

The fruit is now used not only for desserts, but also for meals. Zespri International Japan K.K. is a Tokyo-based company importing kiwifruit from New Zealand. Maiko Kurita, the company’s public relations manager, recommends a kiwifruit and avocado salad.

Cut a kiwifruit and tomato into slices. Deseed an avocado and cut it into one-centimeter-thick slices. Mix crushed kiwifruit flesh with rice oil, salt and black pepper to make the dressing.

“Since it is easy to make, it’s good for breakfast and lunch. It is nutritious but also very delicious,” Kurita said.

Komazawa Women’s University Prof. Ichiro Nishiyama, who specializes in food science, says that while kiwifruits are small, they are abundant in nutrition. Kiwifruits contain higher amounts of vitamin C compared to other fruits.

“When you buy in bulk, kiwifruit last longer if you store them in the fridge,” Nishiyama said. “Kiwifruits are the best fruit for people lacking in vitamins or concerned about their dietary balance.”