According to history, the seeds of kiwi fruits were first brought out of China by missionaries to New Zealand at the turn of 20th century but the commercial plantings occurred several decades later.
Speaking about the successful cultivation of the fruit in Manipur for the first time, horticulturist of KVK, Hengbung Kh Nodiachand Singh said that it was started for the first time with seeds brought from ICAR, Sikkim in 2003.
Although the plants have been bearing fruits for the last three years, no efforts have been made to market the product. Since the fruit was its first kind in Manipur, they were mainly given to acquaintances as a gift to savour the taste.
Subsequently, 170 kiwi plants have been cultivated. Due to low rainfall only 50 plants survived. These plants have now started bearing fruits. Each plant can produce around 25 to 50 kgs of kiwi fruits. Even if the products are not taken to the market, the fruits are being sold at Rs 150 to Rs 180 per kg among the local people.
In 2007, the total product of kiwi fruits was 520 kgs and this year 120 kgs have been produced so far, Nodiachand informed.
On the method of cultivation he explained that a kiwi plant resembles the grape vine, the only difference is that kiwi plants bear both male and female flowers.
Matua and tomuri are the male plants of kiwi while bruno, monty and hayward are the female plants. At the time of planting, one tomuri or matua should be planted along with nine plants of bruno or monty or hayward.
The fruits have a hairy, brown peel containing green flesh with white pulp in the centre and surrounded by black edible seeds. The fruit has a sweet taste similar to a mixture of banana, pineapple and strawberry.
Nutrition-wise, kiwi contains about as much potassium as bananas and 1.5 times vitamin C. It is also rich in vitamin A and E and black seeds can be crushed to produce oil, which is very rich in alfa-linoleic acid, an important Omega-3 essential fatty acid.
Studies have proved that kiwi helps control asthma and it also decreases the chances of colon cancer as it provides a good amount of dietary fibre.
However, some people maybe allergic to it, as it contains a protein dissolving enzyme called ’actinidin’. It can cause itching in the mouth, lips and palate, and in severe cases it can also lead to wheezing or collapsing.
Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are the two leading producers of the fruit in India. Currently, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, France, Japan and the United States are among the leading commercial kiwi producers in the world.