Extreme Makeover: fruit edition


The kiwifruit is an iconic symbol of New Zealand as well as an important export for the country. But some people think the exotic fruit is held back from greater success by its furry brown wrapping. The most popular fruits in the world are very convenient to transport and consume: think bananas, apples, and grapes. So scientists in New Zealand, sponsored by taxpayer dollars, are attempting to breed kiwi that are easier to peel and eat, as The Wall Street Journal explains.

But even though millions are being poured into the project, the kiwifruit is proving to be a tough nut–err, fruit–to crack. So far, success is elusive, with the rejects having unsightly gray skin or unappealing flavors that evoke “hints of kerosene,” according to members of the 17-member tasting panel, known as “kiwi sommeliers.”

Undaunted by the lack of success, researchers continue their quest for a “naked” kiwi, with the kiwi sommeliers gearing up for the next harvest season. Scientists are also working on novelty versions of the kiwifruit, including one that has an orange flesh and spicy taste. But are consumers ready for a Sriracha kiwi? And if the scientists are successful in creating a smoother-skinned, easier to eat kiwi, will it make you more likely to purchase the fruit?

While you contemplate the question, be inspired by these kiwi recipes from the EYB library:

Kiwi salsa from Simply Recipes
Kiwi sorbet from Gourmet Magazine
Roasted chicken with kiwi, blood oranges and ginger from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef
Kiwi summer roll from Whole Living
Honey-glazed baby kiwi mascarpone cheesecake from Cooking on the Weekends
New Zealand kiwi sangria from Leite’s Culinaria

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  • Cubangirl  on  March 26, 2014

    Kiwis also make a great tenderizer. I use it as a rub for my own version of Bulgogi. Steve puts them in his protein drink.

  • ellabee  on  March 26, 2014

    The name 'kiwi fruit' itself was a genius marketing ploy by the NZ producers. I enjoy them whenever they're served, but hardly ever buy them. It's got nothing to do with the peel, but with the reality that they come from literally the other side of the earth — as un-local as it gets. So they're a luxury treat.

  • hillsboroks  on  March 26, 2014

    I love putting Kiwis in fruit salads and in fruit kabobs not only for their great taste but also for their fun color. I really don't mind peeling them and don't see why they need to develop the new varieties. They are easier to peel than some other fruits and they have the advantage of not browning. Mix them with blueberries, strawberries and something orange like cantaloupe or peaches and you have a lovely salad. They grow here in Oregon too and years ago we had a friend who delighted in getting the plants from NZ and having them in his garden as a novelty. A couple of years ago I heard that someone was trying to grow them here commercially so that we would have local Kiwis.

  • Queezle_Sister  on  March 27, 2014

    Plant molecular geneticists know a lot about how the plant epidermis generates hairs. It would not be difficult to genetically modify the kiwi to knock out the hair-producing pathway without altering flavor. But the public clearly needs more education about the history of genetic modification (as indeed all cultivated food plants and animals are genetically modified, with modifications starting at the stone age).

  • darcie_b  on  March 27, 2014

    Yes, we've been selectively breeding plants for generations, taking advantage of naturally occurring genetic mutations and cross-pollinating plants to achieve desired results. But no matter how hard you try, using those methods you could never cross a fish with a tomato. But now scientists can do that and more – it's a real paradigm shift.

  • ellabee  on  March 27, 2014

    hillsboroks' point about the kiwi's non-browning reminds why they're such an appealing addition to fruit salads and buffet displays. Local kiwis would be a Great Thing; hope they come to pass in Oregon, at least.

  • hillsboroks  on  March 30, 2014

    I just mentioned this post to my husband and asked him about locally grown Kiwi in Oregon. To my surprise he told me there are Kiwi growers all over the Willamette Valley and there is a u-pick Kiwi farm about 5 Miles from us. I have never seen Kiwi in the local farmers market and the Kiwi in the grocery stores all appear to come from New Zealand. But this summer I am going to find that u-pick Kiwi farm and see what the Oregon grown Kiwis are like. I have already started searching EYB for recipes and have found lots of great looking Kiwi recipes. This will be my 2014 summer adventure in the kitchen!

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