The air was cool and fresh as we headed
down to the Bay of Plenty, leaving behind the malodours of
the volcanic plateau. We were speeding along, looking for
somewhere to buy fresh spinach and ricotta pasta. Matthew
and Kirstie had been craving it for days and today's mission
was to find a supermarket and relieve their misery.
As we coasted downhill, Matthew
was the first to notice something strange; a large green
blob by the side of the road in the distance. As we swept
closer the blob revealed itself to be an enormous 'walk-in'
slice of kiwi fruit.
The fruit the Kiwi's name as
We leaned the bikes gently against
the giant green fruit and climbed up the stairs inside.
At the top, some 20m up, we stood on a viewing platform
and finally figured out what the fuss was about. We'd arrived
in Kiwiland: in front of us thousands and thousands of immaculately
manicured kiwi vines stretched as far as the eye could see,
and snaking through the vines a little tractor train pulling
kiwi shaped carts on tours of the orchards. "Can we go on
the kiwi carts Dad?" asked Matthew. "Want to go on kiwi
carts, want to go on kiwi carts" whined Cameron. How could
Only in New Zealand can you take
someone else's product, rebrand it as your own, market it
as the best in the world and get away with it. And that's
exactly what the Kiwi's have done with the Chinese gooseberry,
better known to you, me and the rest of the world as the
kiwi fruit. This little corner of New Zealand, centred on
the unfortunately named Te Puke, is a major centre for the
production of kiwi fruit. In a strip of land some 50km long
by 10km wide, there are thousands of orchards producing
and exporting hundreds of millions of kiwi fruit every year.
As we sat on our kiwi cart, the tour guide explained, "The
combination of climate, soil type, soil chemistry and drainage
here is unique, making this area ideal for growing the worlds
best kiwi fruit, and that's what we do."
We stooped under the vines among
thousands of perfect looking hairy Green kiwis. "We get
up to 1500 fruit per vine," said the guide proudly. "Mummy,
I got a kiwi," said Cameron clutching one he found on the
ground. "We discard those with any blemishes to ensure the
highest possible quality for exporting," explained the guide,
"to protect the reputation of our kiwi." Cameron clutched
his harvest and searched for more. "Actually, that's not
a kiwi. A kiwi is a bird. That's a Chinese gooseberry,"
said Matthew keen to ensure the fruit's origin was
at least acknowledged.
The kiwi formerly known as Chinese
gooseberry. These are classic Green's
The first Chinese gooseberry seeds
arrived in New Zealand just over a hundred years ago. The
gooseberry farmers around here had a big party recently
to celebrate the centenary. There's 150 varieties of Chinese
gooseberry but here they grow just three - the Green, the
Gold and the Berry. The hairy Green is familiar to most
of us but not everyone likes its' hairy skin or slightly
bitter taste, so that's why the marketeers are bringing
the Gold to a supermarket near you. The kiwi Gold has a
smoother, less hairy skin and a sweeter golden fruit, guaranteed
to overcome your buying objections. Its' production is strictly
licensed and carefully managed to control the market. And
then for your lunchbox, there's the cute little KiwiBerry
(or Arguta); a naturally small, grape sized member of the
kiwifruit family with a smooth skin you can eat. Apparently
they're 'terifically tiny with no hair, just flair.' There's
no doubting the Kiwi's are canny marketeers when it comes
to the kiwi. "So, there's a kiwi fruit for everyone. And,
they're the world's healthiest fruit you know," explained
the guide, "packed full of energy, vitamins A, C and E,
fibre, potassium, magnesium, iron and powerful enzymes.
You won't find anything better." I was convinced enough
to give them a try.
Back in Kiwiland our tour ended
at a gift shop packed with every conceivable kind of kiwi
product. "Can we have a kiwi party?" asked Matthew clearly
taken in a little by the marketing hype. "No," I said, "we're
going to celebrate the Chinese gooseberry."
A celebration of all that is
We sat out under the vines,
sipping gooseberry wine, drinking gooseberry juice, eating
fresh Greens and Golds with special gooseberry spoons, and
popping sweet Berries in our mouths. The boys played football
with the reject fruits they'd found in the orchards. "How
do they know these are the best in the world?" I wondered
aloud as I cut open a juicy Gold with my special spoon,
"perhaps there's some global fruit tasting panel at an annual
gooseberry fest." "Or maybe they just make the claim and
wait and see if anyone disputes it," said Kirstie showing
off her promotional background.
Picnic over, we packed our excess
gooseberry products into our panniers and made for the town.
"I hope you like Te Puke, the Kiwi Fruit Capital of the
World" shouted the guide as he waved us off on our way.
"If I eat another gooseberry I think I'm going to puke,"
said Kirstie quietly to me, "what I really need right now
is that pasta."