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Kiwi packs a punch

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I watched with intrigue as a young woman at the next table picked up her teaspoon and expertly slid the edge of it between the emerald green flesh and thin brown skin of half a fuzzy kiwi she held in her other hand.

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I had noticed kiwi amid a rainbow of cut fresh fruit that was part of a lavish Sunday buffet brunch at Madden's Resort on Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minn., last summer. Guest chefs from The St. Paul Grill, Pazzaluna, RJ's American Grill, Tria, The Saint Paul Hotel and Enjoy! Restaurant along with Madden's chefs had prepared the feast that ended Madden's Food and Wine weekend. This year's event is scheduled for Aug. 24-26.

Although I like the sweet and tart flavor of kiwi, I opted not to add any of the cut halves from the fruit display to my plate. I wasn't sure how I would neatly remove the weird furry brown skin from the juicy flesh. The skin is completely edible - I just don't care for the feel of it in my mouth.

When I began doing some research on kiwi fruit, I discovered there is a word for the technique the young woman masterfully used for skinning her kiwi. The California Kiwifruit Commission found the easiest way to get the most fruit from a kiwi is to slice it in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. They coined the word "slooping" to describe the process.

I've been slooping my kiwi ever since.

The exterior of kiwifruit may be unappealing, but the inside is bright green speckled with tiny black seeds and an arrangement of white veins that display a sunburst pattern when the fruit is sliced through the middle. The vivid color of the flesh makes it an attractive garnish on a plate and a bright addition to a fruit salad.

Originally discovered in ancient China, the fruit made its way to other countries and became known as the Chinese gooseberry. In 1962, a California produce dealer imported the fruit from New Zealand and dubbed it kiwifruit because it resembled the funny-looking bird of New Zealand - the fuzzy brown kiwi. In the late 1960s California farmers began growing kiwifruit, and in the 1980s I was seeing the curious-looking fruit in local grocery stores. I used a vegetable peeler to remove the skin before serving the fruit to my family.

Now shoppers are bringing home the familiar kiwi, not only for its sweet refreshing flavor, but also for its nutritional benefits. Kiwi is packed with more vitamin C than an equivalent amount of fresh orange. It's a very good source of dietary fiber and potassium.

Unusually warm days in March fooled my food cells into thinking it was chips and salsa season. Without garden-fresh tomatoes, I used chopped kiwi instead. With the addition of red onion, jalapeno, garlic, some spicy heat and a touch of honey, Kiwi Salsa is a remarkably satisfying substitute for tomato-style salsa.

Mix up some Kiwi Salsa and grab a bag of tortilla chips. It's a spicy surprise rolled up in a tortilla with some brown rice and slices of avocado and anything else you enjoy in a wrap.

Get your family into the kitchen and start slooping some kiwi. You'll have it mastered in no time.

Kiwi Salsa

5 or 6 kiwifruit, firm but ripe

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon honey

Remove skin from the kiwifruit, or sloop the kiwis. Chop the fruit and transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Add red onion, jalapeno, garlic, cumin, chili powder and honey. Use a spoon to gently toss the ingredients, being sure seasonings and honey are evenly dispersed throughout.

Cover and chill until serving time.

Tips from the cook

--For this recipe, use kiwis that yield slightly to pressure when gently squeezed between your thumb and forefinger.

--I use up to a teaspoon each of the ground cumin and chili powder for extra spicy heat.

--Kiwi Salsa is best eaten the day it is made.

--Find more recipes using kiwi at kiwifruit.org.

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