Furry on the outside, sweet and tangy on the inside. For many the image of a kiwi fruit evokes the country of New Zealand, yet its origins are elsewhere. The fruit had been grown in China for many centuries and only at the turn of the 20th Century, in 1904, a school principal by the name of Isabel Fraser brought some seeds to New Zealand after coming back from her travels.
1. History of the kiwi in China
The fruit had a Chinese name, yang tao, but in New Zealand it was informally called “Chinese Gooseberries” due to its sweet and tangy flavor. In 1959, the name was changed to kiwi, after New Zealand’s national bird.
The county of Meixian is known as the birthplace of Chinese kiwi. At the foot of Mount Taibai, Meixian has a profound history and rich culture as one of the cradles of Western Zhou culture, a famous place for ancestral bronze wares and hometown of Zhang Zai, founder of Official Studies in the Northern Song Dynasty. Meixian is in central Shaanxi.
A temperate climate and 2000 hours of sunshine per year contribute to the kiwi’s beautiful shape and attractive color. Pure mountain spring water and large day-night temperature difference create the perfect sour-sweet flavor. A kiwi contains 17 kinds of amino acids and 14 types of minerals. Its vitamin C is 20 to 100 times the amount in other fruits.
Local people took the lead picking the varieties most suitable for artificial cultivation from wild kiwis in 1978. For more than 40 years, over 20 varieties have been bred and introduced. The successfully-bred Xu Xiang kiwi as an advantage variety makes Meixian kiwi fruits famous nationwide.
Xu Xiang was first bred in a kiwi orchard in Xuzhou city, south China’s Jiangsu province, approved in 1990 and awarded for being an excellent variety in 1992 by the then China Kiwi Base. Later it has been introduced into many places in China.
2. Unique Chinese varieties
The kiwi industry has been driven by technologies. In 2006 Meixian and Northwest A&F University jointly established the first Chinese kiwifruit pilot station. 20-plus experts and professors stay here measuring with their footprints every inch of the land, keeping transforming scientific research results.
With a national kiwifruit wholesale market, Meixian has invested 2.8 billion yuan in building a comprehensive market of 1,098 mu (732,000 square meters) combining the technology R&D and exhibition, trade of fruits and fruit-related supplies, cold storage of fresh fruits, deep processing, logistics distribution and general management. A kiwi quality test center, an industry information center, an e-commerce industrial park and others have been built as Shaanxi-based international platforms producing and selling high-quality kiwi.
Over 40 years of R&D and cultivation, Meixian has won over 20 national honors and mutual recognition of geographical indications between China and Europe. The brand value reached 9.828 billion yuan. Relying on the local kiwi industry, around 10,000 poor households overcome poverty as part of industrial development.
The fruits are sold to 30-plus large and medium-sized cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and to 10 countries in Southeast Asia, North America and the Middle East. Riding on the tide of e-commerce, Meixian kiwi is going globally at a faster speed.