My frustrating Kiwifruit experience

Happy, shiny Kiwifruit!

Since it was my mother, Frieda, who introduced Kiwifruit to U.S. supermarkets, and we mention this all the time in our marketing, I have recently made a concerted effort to eat more fresh Kiwifruit.

About two months ago, I bought a bag of organic California-grown Kiwifruit at my local market. The fruit had a slight give to it, and inside the plastic bag, they seemed to ripen up quickly and perfectly. I enjoyed every single one of them. Did you know that a plastic bag provides the perfect ripening chamber for Kiwifruit? The natural ethylene (ripening) gas that is given off by the Kiwifruit (and bananas, apples, pears) hastens the ripening process.

So when I was at another grocery store two weeks ago, they were selling individual Kiwifruit. I thought to myself that it was actually more environmentally friendly (unpackaged), so I bought a half dozen Kiwifruits.

I didn’t pay close attention to the green tinge of the skin and how rock-hard they were. Because, after all, I am a bit of a Kiwifruit guru, so I knew exactly how to ripen them up. I brought them home and left them out on the kitchen counter. (Kiwifruit need to be at room temperature to ripen.) I put them in the same bowl as some bananas I purchased, and I figured as the bananas ripened (and gave off ethylene gas), the Kiwifruit would ripen and get soft.

Wrong. Nothing happened to my Kiwifruit. (But my bananas were delicious.)

So, my second attempt at ripening my Kiwifruit was to put them in a brown paper bag with a ripe banana to create a mini ripening environment. I left them there for a week, checking every day, in case my lovely Kiwifruits were getting soft.

My banana turned brown, but my Kiwifruits were still fairly hard and a couple of them started to shrivel. I brought three to work today — the ones that seemed to have a SLIGHT give to them.

Hard, shriveled, dry Kiwifruit

Can you see how the flesh is not shiny and juicy? The one that is not cut looks kind of shriveled.

Well, I am fairly p*ssed off (and hungry) right now, because although I am an educated consumer, if this same experience happened to you, or your friends, you would probably hesitate to buy Kiwifruit again.

So, let me tell you the back story on this one. First I did a little research to make sure my supposition was correct. I checked the California Kiwifruit Commission website first (visit their site — it is very colorful and cute). Sure enough, it says that the California Kiwifruit season is November through May.

Then I went to the Zespri website, as they market New Zealand-grown Kiwifruit. Their season is May – November and they note on their website that fruit grown in Chile is available at the same time as theirs. (If you go to the Zespri site, check out the History page, and click on 1962 to see my mom!)

My theory is confirmed! The Kiwifruit I purchased were grown in Chile. (Look carefully at the blue-and-white label, which states “Produce of Chile.”) Chilean Kiwifruit should not be available until May, and here it is mid-April.

So what happened? When mom and I were selling Kiwifruit back in the 1960s and 1970s, we insisted that there be a minimum brix (sugar content) for the fruit, before it could be harvested. That minimum level of brix (and ripeness) was our way of guaranteeing the consumer a perfectly sweet taste experience.

It appears as if those brix standards are no longer in place, or not at least for Chilean-grown Kiwifruit. And that is a shame. (These Chilean Kiwifruit were picked too green, probably to take advantage of a gap in supplies, and unfortunately will never ripen properly.)

I have long said that consumers vote with their dollars. If you have an experience like I did with any fruit that does not ripen properly or does not taste good, I think it is so important that you return the fruit to your store and tell the manager of your poor experience. Encourage them to tell their produce buyers. And ask for your money back. You are voting with your dollars.

That way, the feedback will go back up the supply chain, and I guarantee that your voice will be heard.

For me, I am anxiously awaiting the May arrival of first of the season, fresh Kiwifruit from New Zealand. I know they will taste good, after I ripen them up.

And now you know!