Saturday, July 3, 2010

In the green of health

From Website:
Tan Jun-Lei,, 05:55 AM Jul 03, 2010

PHOTO: Kiwi is big business in New Zealand.
Copyright © MediaCorp Press Ltd

PHOTO: Tan Jun-Lei (Center)

Beneath the skin of the kiwi fruit is a bunch of surprises, as a trip to New Zealand reveals

The kiwi fruit is one of those fruits that might still be a novelty to some. Certainly its health benefits are not as well-known, some people, myself included, do not realise the kiwi fruit is incredibly rich in nutrients and antioxidants.

So when I was invited to check out Zespri kiwi fruit, the brand synonymous with quality kiwi fruit, in New Zealand, it was a chance to get up close and personal with this intriguing fruit.

PHOTO: Kiwi is big business in New Zealand.
Copyright © MediaCorp Press Ltd

Growing kiwi fruit, be it green, gold or organic, in New Zealand is big business. Introduced to the country in 1904 by Isabel Fraser, it is now marketed by Zespri International and has dug its roots far and deep both globally and within New Zealand.

One example of that is the Maori connection, best witnessed on Rangiwaea Island. A 20-minute ferry ride from Tauranga's Sebel Trinity Wharf in New Zealand's North Island, Rangiwaea consists largely of horticultural and agricultural blocks run by Maori owners, with the residents engaging in various activities such as forestry, arable farming, and of course, growing of kiwi fruit.

The fruit-growing system on Rangiwaea has a unique ownership structure - it is part of the Tauwhao Te Ngare Trust, which is responsible for ensuring the land is passed down from generation to generation and providing financial support to the island. Being an inter-generational business, the trustees and shareholders are connected to Rangiwaea via genealogy.

We had a field day picking green kiwi fruit at Western Orchards in Katikati, which is part of Zespri's supply community. As it was harvesting season, we got right down to work.

If you're looking for a good workout, picking kiwi fruit beats sweating it out in the gym, it's fast and furious from the get-go, and as many as 200 bins of kiwi fruit can be plucked daily.

It was more kiwi fruit at the dinner table as we feasted on the variety of dishes that could be made with kiwi fruit. It was amazing how versatile the kiwi fruit could be, be it appetiser, main course or dessert, the fruit made its presence felt. It was like killing two birds with one stone: You could satisfy your hunger and get your daily dose of Vitamin C.

PHOTO: Creative use of kiwi fruit: With oysters in a half shell, snapper and tortilla crisps and smoked salmon crepes.

One of my favourites was the smoked salmon crepes at the Mount Bistro restaurant in Mt Maunganui, the green kiwi fruit's tangy flavour blended perfectly with the freshness of the salmon.

Another favourite was the grilled loin of Hawke's Bay Lamb with chimichurri, sweet corn puree and kiwi fruit chutney that I had at the Cable Bay restaurant on Waiheke Island. Apart from being a natural meat tenderiser, the kiwi fruit really helped to bring out the flavours of the lamb.

For those with a sweet tooth, the gold kiwi fruit crème brulee of Mount Bistro is a must-try. Kiwi fruit mint dressing - which I tried at the Matahui Lodge in Katikati, was also the perfect complement for pasta and avocado cream rice salad.

PHOTO: Creative use of kiwi fruit: Kiwi fruit creme brulee and kiwi fruit and pavlova ice cream.

It's hard not to view the kiwi fruit in a new light after all this. Tasty, versatile and nutritionally dense, it has made me rethink my approach to healthy living. For a fruit that's barely the size of your palm, that's no mean feat.

A Kiwi a day

About the size of a large hen's egg, the kiwi fruit is a tiny bundle of surprises. Here's what you'll be getting when you bite into the fruit.

  • Vitamins C, E and a small amount of A. The kiwi fruit outstrips the orange in terms of Vitamin C content. Recent studies have shown that Zespri's gold kiwi fruit packs in a 105.4mg of Vitamin C per 100g of edible flesh, with its green counterpart coming in a close second at 92.7mg (the orange is fifth at 53.2g). Vitamin C is essential for the healthy functioning of the immune system, and an adequate intake may help reduce the severity of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and diabetic heart disease. Vitamin E also helps lower cholesterol, boost immunity and keep the skin supple.

  • The fruit's antioxidant properties also protect the body's cells from oxidative damage, thereby preventing the mutation of genes. Kiwi fruit has also been found to improve the body's uptake of iron from iron-fortified food, which is especially important for people suffering from iron deficiency. It also contains potassium, magnesium and folate, which are important for good health.

  • If you've ever had that bloated feeling after a high-protein meal or have digestive problems, eating kiwi fruit could help ease the discomfort, as kiwi fruit is rich in actinidin, a protein-dissolving enzyme. Kiwi fruit also serves as a natural blood thinner, and studies have shown that eating two or three a day significantly reduces the risk of blood clots.

  • Kiwi skin is edible and is a rich source of dietary fibre. Much of the vitamin content is stored under the skin, so don't peel the kiwi fruit when you eat it or you'll lose some of those precious nutrients. Fibre is good for lowering the risk of colon cancer and keeping blood sugar levels under control. Kiwi fruit seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
By Tan Jun-Lei,