Kiwi – A Fruit of Many Flavors

Want to know what kiwi tastes like? The answer is… it depends.

 

Last year we moved to California. And I don’t say it lightly when I say we now live in the land of fruit. Whether it’s the formal farms we see around us growing almonds, pistachios, and walnuts; or the CSA and roadside farms growing strawberries, peaches, and garden vegetables. We live in one of the most productive areas in the country.

Which has been amazing.

I really miss the historicity of the east. And I really miss the seasonality of the north (seriously, we’ll have to talk about California’s drive-by winter sometime!). But the productive capability of the California climate is amazing too.

Last November, our family was invited to go pick some of the excess kiwis on a neighboring farm. Of course we jumped on the opportunity. 🙂 We brought lots of boxes and buckets and filled our van to capacity.

We had to wait a couple of weeks for the first ones to ripen. We’ve been eating them ever since.

One thing I’ve learned is that a kiwi is not just a kiwi. Bar none, the kiwi is one of the most diversely flavored fruits I’ve ever come across. And, YES, this is the kind of kiwi you’d get from a store. Except it’s not.

The kiwis came from a commercial farm (the ones you get at the supermarket) and we picked the ones left on the branches – the oddly shaped ones (the ones you don’t get at the supermarket).

Since we’ve allowed time and cool temperatures to naturally ripen them, they’ve ripened at different rates. Which means we’ve tried kiwis across a whole range of maturity.

The variety of flavors the kiwis have given us has been impressive, and unexpected, to say the least.

From floral to citrus-y, sweet to sour, apple-y to strawberry-ish, the flavors of the humble kiwi has seriously surprised us!

I wanted to know if it was “just us” or if this kiwi flavor thing was for real. So I did a bit of research.

The first thing I came across was a study that identified the natural chemicals in kiwi that give it its aroma and flavor. Turns out that there are between 28 and 35 of these chemicals. (Just as a reference, chocolate contains around 600 chemicals that give it its flavor and aroma.)

So though it doesn’t contain the complexity of aroma and flavor that chocolate does, the kiwi has a respectable amount of compounds that contribute to its flavor. Especially taking into account the varying amounts of those compounds, due to varying stages of ripeness, along with varying amounts of sugar in the fruit.

An article I came across noted that kiwi does have some similar flavor/aroma chemicals as strawberries. (It was nice to see that my taste buds hadn’t let me down on that one.) This is the reason that strawberry-kiwi combos work so well – in jams, juices, drinks, candies, etc.

The saddest thing, in my opinion, is that these are the kiwis that a store won’t purchase from the farmer. The ones that would otherwise be left rotting on the vines. The ones that wouldn’t be skipped during harvest because they don’t “fit the mold”. And they have such an amazing complexity of flavor.

Whereas the kiwis you’d get from a supermarket are all the exact same shape (and nearly the exact same size), and they’ve all been ripened exactly the same, under controlled conditions. Sure, you’ll still get that ‘kiwi’ flavor. But if you want something more, and you don’t live near a kiwi orchard, you should try growing your own. Even the simplest kiwi isn’t so simple.

That’s true of pretty much any and every fruit out there, really.

Just goes to show how much people miss out on when they only get their food from a supermarket. If that doesn’t convince you to grow more of your own, I don’t know what will!

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