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Kiwifruit varieties in New Zealand


All fruits have different varieties, and the kiwifruit is no different. Throughout the years kiwifruit varieties have adapted to be more resistant to bacteria and weather conditions. Today in New Zealand we have mainly three varieties of kiwifruit.

Kiwifruit was unknown in New Zealand before 1904. Its seed was the first time imported from China into New Zealand by Isabel Fraser. They planted in 1906 and after 4 years of the plantation, it gave fruit. Its fruit was known as yang Tao (in Chinese) or Chinese gooseberry.

The first fruit was exported in 1950, from New Zealand to the USA. The production of kiwifruit increases significantly from 1980. Its production at commercial scale started after the export regulation in 1999.

After many discussions about the current fruit name by the major players in New Zealand, it was called kiwifruit for the first time in 1959 by Jack Turner, from ‘Turners & Growers’, one of the largest kiwifruit exporters at the time. ‘Kiwifruit’ name popped-up when they figured they needed a short word, with a Māori sound and which would relate to the country in some way.

In the current era, New Zealand is the second-largest producer of kiwifruit after Italy. It is also the first largest exporter (export 94%of its production) of kiwifruit throughout the world.

In the 1990’s, with the constant growth of the kiwifruit production in New Zealand, the government, along with growers, made the decision to unify the fruit export processes and arrangements. That’s when the Zespri Group was created, and from it, Zespri International – being it’s subsidiary. Zespri today has a near monopoly over all kiwifruit exports in New Zealand, is responsible for trading, licensing, promoting and regulating the industry.

Zespri also currently owns patents for the Sungold Kiwifruit and Red kiwifruit.

Most Common Kiwifruit Varieties in New Zealand

As we mentioned before, there are three kiwifruit varieties being currently produced in New Zealand:

  • Green Kiwifruit
  • Yellow/Golden Kiwifruit (Officially named Sungold Kiwifruit)
  • Red Kiwifruit

Their characteristics are different due to several reasons. Their different and peculiar characteristics in detail below:

Green Kiwifruit

Its scientific name is Actinidia deliciosa commonly called Hayward. New Zealand started this variety in 1925. In 1960, it became available throughout the world. A few technical details:

  1. Fruit external appearance: Fuzzy and bronze with fibers.
  2. Flavor: Its flavor is sweet and fresh with sour, and its qualities resemble lime.
  3. Size: It is equal to the classic egg. Its length is 5 to 8 cm and diameter is 4.5 to 5.5 cm.
  4. Time of Harvest: it starts ripening in late February and is ready to pick in March in New Zealand. The picking season lasts for around 3-4 months.
  5. Flesh color: It is bright lime (emerald) green having black seeds.
  6. Length of Storage Life: It can be stored for 15 days in the refrigerator. For ripening, room temperature is best.
  7. Environmental Adaptation: The installation of the climate change model.

Yellow/Golden Kiwifruit

Its scientific name is Actinidia chinensis. It has smooth and rusty skin, the inside is softer and sweeter making it more appealing for the general consumer. It’s vine is native to China, but was made commercially available only in New Zealand.

The gold kiwifruit vines are more vulnerable to bacteria attacks. In 2010, a bacteria called PSA (Pseudomonas syringae) caused many commercial losses and had a huge impact in New Zealand’s economy. Since then, although now being a controlled disease, the bacteria still affects some orchards and vines from time to time in the Bay of Plenty area, in New Zealand.

Zespri Group and their research teams have made many changes on the fruit composition (using natural methods) throughout the years, to help make it more resistant to PSA. The latest ‘version’ of the gold kiwifruit variety is called ‘SunGold’ or ‘G3’ and is the most resistant so far, although not as tasty and sweet as the first ‘versions’ of the fruit.

A few technical details:

  1. Fruit external appearance: Smoother and not fuzzy.
  2. Flavor: The flavor is juicy and more sweater than green kiwi.
  3. Size: It is similar to a hen egg. Its length is 4.5 to 8 cm and the diameter is 4 to 5.4 cm.
  4. Time of Harvest: Same as the green kiwifruit. It starts ripening in late February and is ready to pick in March in New Zealand. The picking season lasts for around 3-4 months.
  5. Flesh Color: Golden yellow.

Red Kiwifruit

In 2019, Zespri introduced a new kiwifrui variety to the New Zealand market and growers. This variety has a red ring around its seed and has a berry-ish taste. This is known as red kiwifruit. It has been prepared by the New Zealand breeding program (Plant and Food Research) and the production licensed to growers in New Zealand. This new variety is slowly taking it’s place on the supermarket shelves, but it’s likely to be worldwide available over the next couple years.

  1. Fruit external appearance: Smooth skin, similar to Sungold kiwifruit but with a red-ish accent on it.
  2. Flavor: Its flavor is deliciously sweated berry-tinged.
  3. Size: It is similar to a hen egg. Its length is 4.5 to 8 cm and the diameter is 4 to 5.4 cm.
  4. Flesh Color: The vibrant red flesh.

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