Monday, March 14, 2011

New Zealand Pt. 1: All About Kiwifruit

View from our Beachfront Villa at Papamoa Beach Top 10 Holiday Resort.

Some of you may recall that my post for Kiwi Tartlets won the blogger contest held by Zespri Kiwifruit at the end of last year. I just returned from cashing in that prize--an amazing trip to New Zealand for four--and am finally ready to share my adventures with all of you. This is going to happen in four parts, with the final post featuring a giveaway of some interesting kiwifruit concoctions I picked up at a local shop. Since my one year blogoversary is set for this Thursday, consider this a celebration. What did you all do before I entered your lives? I'm afraid to know.

Anyway, I will now prove to you just how nerdy I am. 

Me posing near the giant kiwifruit at the Kiwi 360 "theme park."

Did you know that Te Puke, New Zealand is the kiwi capital of the world? The country exports about 30% of the world's kiwifruit, 90% of which is grown in and around the city. The region, known as the Bay of Plenty, is also home to dozens of other fruits and vegetables, making it comparable to California's San Joaquin Valley.

Unlike us deprived Californians, New Zealand has what I like to refer to as a kiwifruit theme park. It boasts both the massive kiwi slice (gold on one side, green on the other) and the ginormous kiwi bird pictured above.  Tours around the orchard are even conducted via KiwiKart.

While I didn't get to traverse the grounds in a KiwiKart, I did get to take a tour. 

Gold kiwifruit; green kiwifruit with gold in the background.

I seriously had no idea that kiwifruit grows on vines. For some reason I thought it was a tree or shrub. But no, I was wrong. As you can see, there are two types of fruit pictured above. On the right is the ordinary green kiwifruit. On the left is the Zespri Gold Kiwifruit, a patented cultivar unique to New Zealand growers. Gold kiwifruit is much sweeter than its green counterpart, slightly more pointed in shape, and has a smooth skin. 

Since I'm already exhibiting my nerdy tendencies, I'm also going to let you know that the two varieties do not cross, allowing growers to plant both at the same time. You can see this on the right--the green kiwifruit is in the front, whereas the gold is hanging low in the back. 

Under the kiwifruit canopy. Orchards are sheltered by huge walls of shrubbery.

The vines eventually turn into  an intense canopy of kiwifruit. If you're over 5 foot tall, you kind of have to bend down to walk down the rows or risk being smacked in the face with a prickly kiwi. It's not pleasant--I would know. Pickers get to avoid this problem, though. They merely have to detach the fruit, as the sorting and packing process is completely automated. 

I failed to procure a photo of it, but the way in which growers handle the vines is absolutely fascinating. Here's a picture I found online. So, the vines only produce fruit once a season, meaning any new growth is left bare. Growers take new vine growth and sort of hoist it up on poles, creating the pictured tent-like structures across the fields. After fruit is picked and old vines pruned, they drop the new vines down to create a new canopy.

Kiwiberries and kiwifruit road signs.

Looks like a mini kiwifruit, no? It's actually a kiwiberry, which is a variety unto itself. You can eat the skin, and it kind of tastes like the center of a green kiwi in concentrated form.

As for those signs? The human Kiwis have a great sense of humor, blanketing the Te Puke region with road signs featuring kiwifruit. These are just mock-ups of what you see out on the road, but I'll have you know that the real things are even cleverer.  My dad, who we desperately tried to keep from driving on the wrong side of the road, didn't really need to interrupt his flow for photo-ops. 

Fun signs and freaky planes.

And because my family is ridiculous, I must share with you the photos that began our trip. We were sitting in the domestic terminal at the airport in Auckland when my brother starting freaking out about the trashcan. He kept telling me I had to take a picture of it--it said rubbish. He obviously belongs to my mother, as she kept telling me I had to take a photo of the No Spitting sign we saw on our walk between terminals. Me? Well, the highlight of my few hours in Auckland was the tiny plane set to fly us into the Bay of Plenty. Two seats across and cockpit visible, I was more than a little freaked out.

In the next installment, titled New Zealand Pt. 2: The Best Blue Cheese Ever, I'll talk jetboating, kayaking in the rain, delicious ice cream, and of course, cheese. 

Disclaimer: While Zespri paid for my trip, I am under no obligation to write about my adventures. It's my blog and I'll write if I want to.


sara @ CaffeIna said...

It was really fun to read the first part of your adventure! So jealous about your NZ trip :)

Jean said...

Welcome back--love the pictures (especially the first one). Looking forward to the rest of the story. :-)

*kimmie* said...

Wow. Gorgeous photos and as a lover of kiwi fruit, I'm embarrassed to admit that I too had no idea where they came from! Thanks for an educational end to my otherwise uneventful day. =)

Can't wait to read more about your grand adventures!

The Duo Dishes said...

WOW! Definitely didn't know you'd won, so congrats! What an amazing prize! Looking forward to the rest. The no spitting sign is hilarious.

The Cilantropist said...

Ah.. as usual you crack me up. I seriously think we need to lobby for a Kiwi theme park here in California. Complete with Kiwikarts. :)

Shelley said...

So jealous :) and glad that you weren't near Christchurch during the quake! Our youngest son (23) did a study abroad in Christchurch -- gone 6 months -- 3 years ago. Then went to work on the North Island (Thoroughbred farm) last July and returned 3 days after the quake. He had left his job and was touring again on the South Island and was right in the CBD in Christchurch when it hit. Sprinting to get away from collapsing buildings. We are so thankful he made it out w/o injury. Your trip sounds amazing and we are SO in love with kiwis (of all kinds) around here!

Lawyer Loves Lunch said...

What fun! Can't wait to read more about this awesome trip! I hope you have more kiwi facts coming up :)

Mairi@Toast said...

So happy you had a good time! Look forward to part 2.

All That's Left Are The Crumbs said...

I didn't know that a kiwifruit grows on a vine. I am glad that you are enjoying your trip.

A Thought For Food said...

I'm in love with those safety signs.

Thanks for sharing all the kiwi glory... it really is one of my favorite fruits.

Le (from the old Le's Little Kitchen) said...

I'm glad you had fun in my little country of NZ! I too, am back in NZ, after a whirlwind of the last half of last yr in Korea!

You know I've never been to Te Puke? LOL. I should really go there one time.

P.S Check out my new site :)

Monet said...

Oh I'm completely smitten. I love kiwis, but I had no idea what they grew on. I want to book a trip to New Zealend tomorrow. You are so sweet to share your memories with us! And you totally deserve to win more trips like these! Thanks for sharing. Hugs from Austin!

omgyummy said...

I'm a little slow these days (the Bat Mitzvah did that to me but it was worth it) - I knew you were traveling but didn't realize where and why. That's totally cool and I am green (for St. Patty's Day) with envy. Hope we can toast your one year blogoversary and your trip to New Zealand on Monday night!

A little bit of everything said...

Looks like you had lots of fun on your trip to NZ. Loved reading about it. thanks for sharing
If you had asked me I'd have told you kiwis grow in trees :))

heartbreak pie said...

aaaaand just read this one so know why! congratulations. and looking forward to hearing about your fish and chip secret :)

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