Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Humble Kiwi

My four-year-old son just wolfed down his lunch for the day. 

And the first thing he inhaled?  His fruit. Two kiwis, to be exact.  And what did I put in my daughter's lunch for school today?  You guessed it.  Kiwis.

Thank goodness for the kiwi.  At this point of the year, we here at the Zeff household (specifically those under the age of 7) are getting a little whiny about the lack of variety in our seasonal fruits - apples, pears, grapefruit and oranges (plus the same old bananas).

So the humble little kiwi adds a refreshing option to our fruit repertoire.

Yes, the hairy, brown, small and kind-of-ugly kiwi.

I was first introduced to the kiwi by my mother when I was 17 years old.  We were grocery shopping one day (this was a long time ago, before "exotic" fruits and veggies were easily found); I picked up a kiwi and asked, "What in the world is that?"  My mother promptly bought it so we could take it home and taste test.

Little did I know that a beautiful, creamy, jewel-green flesh (specked with tiny black seeds) was hidden underneath that brown peel.  And little did  I know that hidden in that little green package was a "wake-me-up" taste of perfectly balanced sweet and tart - kind of like a strawberry crossed with banana and melon.  Truly unusual (in a good way).  

And kiwis are nutrition powerhouses.  Sick of oranges?  Kiwis provide double the amount of vitamin C you need for the day.  Bored with bananas?  Kiwis have just as much heart-healthy potassium.  Looking for fiber?  Just two kiwis pack about 6 grams of fiber (almost a quarter of your fiber need each day).

As I said, all of this in a humble, kind-of-ugly-looking fruit. 

New species have developed - golden-fleshed or those with hairless skin - but I like the traditional kind.  And since they are grown all over the world now (China, Italy, New Zealand and even California), they can be found anytime.

And about peeling vs. not:  eating the whole kiwi does increase your fiber intake a bit; it also adds a pronounced tartness.  But if you can't get past that hairy texture, no worries; you're not really losing the nutritional value of the fruit if you peel it.  

Me, I've always peeled (or cut it in half to scoop out the flesh).  Besides, have you ever tried to get young kids to eat a hairy fruit?  Enough said.

If you do choose to eat the skin, be sure to wash it very well before eating - those fuzzy hairs really catch and hold dirt, pesticides and other unwanted bacteria you won't want to eat.

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