In our busy day-to-day lives, a trip to the grocery store is a routine and hurried affair. We quickly walk down the fruit aisle filled with stacks of ripe mangos, sweet papayas and fuzzy kiwis, without even wondering how these delicate fruits made it to our harsh Canadian climate to grace our fruit bowls. We had the chance this summer to dive a little deeper into one of these fruits, the humble kiwi.
To understand the kiwi, you have to go back to where it started, on the vine, in a co-op orchard in Kavala, Greece. It might surprise you to know that kiwis are grown in Greece. After all, its name is synonymous with the kiwi bird, native to New Zealand. While it’s true that kiwis grow in New Zealand, they’re native to mainland China and Taiwan. In Greece, kiwis have been produced since the 1980s. Today, Greece ranks third in the world for kiwi exports.
Kavala is home to the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Kavala (Kavala COOP). Located on the northern coast of Greece, this region has the perfect climate for the kiwis to thrive: warm summers and mild winters. Kiwis grow on woody vines and have two shapes. The oblong shape that’s commonly found in stores, and a flat “butterfly” shape. Butterfly kiwis are the less desirable shape. You won’t find them in the stores, they’re used to make kiwi juice. Small kiwis are discarded and the larger one is left on the vine to get bigger under its time for harvest. Kavala COOP has almost 200,000 kiwi trees, and each kiwi is harvested by hand from October to November when the kiwi sugars reach 6.5 per cent. Once picked, kiwis are sorted by machine by size, weight, sweetness and quality. Next, they’re stored in massive refrigerators. Keeping the kiwis happy after harvest is a finicky process, with moisture levels at 97 per cent to keep them plump until it’s time to be exported. Once ready, the kiwis are exported to France, Spain, the U.S. and, of course, Canada.
In addition to being juicy, sweet and tart, kiwis are packed with health benefits. You may be used to reaching for oranges when sick, but what about a kiwi? One kiwi has almost double the vitamin C of an orange! So when you’re reaching for a container of kiwis for your fruit bowl or smoothie (try our recipe below!), take a moment to think about the epic journey that they took to reach you, and savour each bite. —Amanda Nunes
Kiwi Mango Smoothie
1 cup of Greek yogurt
1 mango (chopped)
2 kiwis (peeled)
1 banana (frozen)
1 tbsp of honey (optional)
4 ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend well until desired consistency.