Benefits Of: KIWI FRUIT

Actinidiaceae (Chinese gooseberry family)

This fruit is also known as Chinese gooseberry. Note that the skin of the golden variety is smoother than that of the green variety.

Description. The kiwifruit grows on a perennial, deciduous vine with branches up to 10 m (33 ft) long covered in short reddish-brown hairs. Opposite, cordate leaves 8-15 cm (3-6 in) long with long petioles and finely toothed leaf margins. Monoecious, fragrant white flowers are borne in small clusters in axils of leaves. Fruits ovate, olive-green berries 4-6 cm (1.62.4 in) long, with a thin skin covered in short brown hairs. The green to greenish-yellow, juicy and sweet to subacid flesh contains numerous tiny black seeds.

Origin and Distribution. Native to southern China, where the vine grows naturally in a subtropical or warm temperate climate. Widely cultivated for its fruits. Today the main producer of kiwifruits is Italy, followed by New Zealand and Chile.

Food uses. Ripe fruits are commonly eaten out of hand or used in fruit salads. They are also made into marmalade and juice. Kiwifruits are served as appetizers, in salads, or in fish, chicken, and meat dishes. Slices are used as garnish for cocktails, ice cream, desserts, and cakes. Slightly underripe fruits are used for preparing chutneys and jellies. Overripe fruits are fermented to produce a winelike, alcoholic drink.

Comments. Fruits are a very good source of vitamin C, with one fruit providing the daily requirement of an adult. Kiwifruits contain the proteolytic enzyme actinidin, which can be used to tenderize meat.

The popular and most widely planted variety, A. chinensis ‘Hayward, was initially created in New Zealand in 1924. In 1959, mainly for marketing reasons, this variety was named kiwi after New Zealand’s national bird.

Fruits turn yellowish or reddish when fully ripe.

Description. Medium-sized deciduous tree, 14-18 m (46-59 ft) tall, with a short trunk and stiff, spreading branches covered in sharp spines. Alternate leaves with 3-5 oval leaflets with finely toothed margins. Each leaflet is 4-10 cm (1.6-4 in) long by 2-5 cm (0.8-2 in) wide. Fragrant flowers are produced in small clusters on young branches. The fleshy flower petals are greenish on the outside and yellow inside. Woody, spherical to oval or pyriform, hard-shelled fruits measure 8-20 cm (3-8 in) in diameter. Green fruits turn yellowish or reddish when fully ripe. The inside of the fruit consists of 10-20 segments containing an orange, astringent, sour to fairly sweet pulp, which is very aromatic and fragrant and contains several oblong seeds.

Origin and Distribution. Native to a region ranging from Pakistan, central and southern India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. The tree grows in tropical and subtropical dry forests of lowlands and foothills. It is particularly common in India, where the tree is considered sacred. It is often found in temple gardens or as a dooryard tree. It is rarely grown commercially.

Food uses. The pulp of bael fruit is eaten fresh after the hard shell is broken open. In Indonesia, the sweetened pulp is eaten as dessert. The pulp is often made into a drink similar to lemonade by mixing with water, ice, and sugar. This drink, called bael ka sharbat in India, is popular for its cooling effect. The pulp is also used to make sweets, jams, and pickles. Leaves and young shoots are eaten as vegetables in salads.

Comments. In Hinduism, the bael fruit is sacred and used in worship of Lord Shiva. The trifoliate leaf represents the 3-pronged trident held by Shiva that symbolizes the three fundamental powers of will, action, and knowledge. In Nepal, the fruit is used in fertility rituals for girls. The fruits have been used in traditional medicine to treat digestive disorders, as a tonic, and as a mild laxative, among many other purposes.

Fruits can be either oval or round.

Description. Candlenut is an evergreen tree, 1025 m (33-82 ft) tall with pyramidal crown and spreading branches. Alternate, pale green, long-petioled leaves 10-20 cm (4-8 in) long, elliptic to ovate or lobed with 3-5 pointed lobes. Small white flowers are produced in terminal panicles. Round or oval fruits 5-8 cm (2-3 in) in diameter with a hard, rough shell and 1 or 2 oily white seeds inside.

Origin and Distribution. The tree is probably native to a vast region from India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia to northern Australia. The exact origin of this tree is unknown because of its early spread by humans. Cultivated throughout tropical Asia and Oceania, often as an ornamental.

Food uses. The oil-rich seeds, slightly toxic when raw, must be boiled or roasted before consumption. They are used in a variety of dishes, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia. In Java, the boiled seeds are ground to make a sauce eaten with rice and vegetables. Roasted and crushed candlenuts are an important ingredient that adds a characteristic taste to poke, a raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine.

Comments. Seeds contain about 63% fat, 19% protein, and 8% carbohydrate.

The oil has been used for millennia as fuel for illumination. To make candles, the oily nuts were crushed, mixed with kapok fibers, and mounted on a split bamboo pole. The oil is also important in traditional medicine, used mainly as a laxative and to treat headaches, fever, and diarrhea and to stimulate hair growth. It is also employed in the manufacture of paints and varnishes and as a wood preservative.

The closely related species A. fordii (tung tree), native to southern China, Myanmar, and Vietnam, provides an oil used in the production of resins, paints, and grease.

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