by Ed Halmagyi


I love New Zealanders. No really I do. Despite the rugby, despite the league, and despite the short game of cricket. At least I can still hold my head up about the Tests.

I mean, what’s not to love about a people who have such a cute little fruit name after them? It sums them up perfectly. A little furry and unpalatable on the outside, but inside they’re sweet and interesting.

And then I find out it’s all a sham. A giant fraud perpetrated by our Trans-Tasman neighbours.

They’re Chinese.

Not New Zealanders, the fruit!

Kiwifruit was once known as Chinese gooseberry as it originated in the southern Yunnan province of our giant Asia neighbour, a region also famous for its gourmet teas. Sometimes known as ‘melonette’ for export, it was considered a gourmet treat for centuries.

Then a girls’ school principal from New Zealand’s North Island came a-visiting to China in the early part of the 20th century and borrowed a couple of seeds. She established them upon her return and the plant quickly adapted to the cool and moist conditions north of Wellington.

By 1910 the first commercial crops appeared and before too long New Zealand was exporting their re-badged ‘kiwifruit’ around the world. Ironically today the Kiwis are no longer the world’s biggest producer of kiwifruit. That honour goes to Italy, who supplies the European market.

Kiwifruit is a blessing and a curse for chefs. Its bright green colour adds visual depth to foods and the pleasant acidity is a welcome contrast in sweet desserts. However kiwifruit also contain a protein-consuming enzyme called actinidin, an unusual chemical that can throw some quirky curve balls.

You can marinate tough cuts of meat in fresh kiwifruit juice to tenderise it. You’ll be amazed at the results. But if you try to combine kiwifruit with dairy or set it as a jelly you’re in for a nasty shock. The actinidin will consume the proteins in either dish causing them to separate and break down, leaving a watery mess.

Kind of like our rugby team after 90 minutes of ritual humiliation at the hands of the All Blacks. I should have known.
Spiced pavlova with kiwifruit

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