A kiwi story

10-07-2015 Le kiwi français, fruits et légumes de France
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The history of kiwis in France is long and filled with twists and turns… but the one thing that everyone can agree on is that it all begins in China!

the french kiwi
A French Discovery of a Chinese Delicacy
Kiwis are often associated with New Zealand – which is no accident, but that part of the kiwi story comes later! Kiwis actually hail from China, more specifically the Yangzi Jiang Valley.

European awareness of the kiwi began around 1750, when a French Jesuit, Chéron d’Incarville, described them in his writings. It would take intervention from New Zealand for kiwis to really take off in the West.

A Kiwi from the Kiwis
Kiwi plants were first imported into Europe in the 19th century and into the States and New Zealand in the early 20th century. It was in New Zealand that this plant became particularly popular; it was first cultivated in private gardens before being produced for sale.

A New Zealand campaign to name the kiwi worked; the association between the furry brown fruit and the furry brown bird native of the Oceanic island nation stuck. The kiwi became popular amongst Kiwis, who began developing new varieties and exporting them.

But while kiwis started to become popular, it wasn’t until further intervention from China that France hopped on the kiwi bandwagon.

Return to China
In the 1960s, a Frenchman brought several kiwis from China to Paris, where he gave them to the head of Paris’ Jardin des Plantes at the time, home to a large botanical garden featuring exotic plants. While some plants had already arrived in 1904, the popularity of the fruit made this new addition a success.

The first French harvest of kiwis followed soon after in the Ardour Valley, in 1972. As opposed to other exotic fruits, kiwis thrived in the valley, and soon growers in the region committed themselves exclusively to the culture of kiwis. The kiwis became popular almost instantly, and the rest was history!

Today’s Kiwis
During the last twelve years, kiwi production has increased dramatically. In France, it has increased by 9.43% (from 53,000 tons in 2001 to 58,000 tons in 2013) and worldwide, kiwi production has increased by 93% (1,008,000 tons in 2001 versus 1,946,000 tons in 2013)!

Today, China is the world’s largest producer of kiwis (600,000 tons in 2013 ), but France, in fifth place, has an advantage. Its nearly 58,000 tons of fruit , cultivated by 1,500 growers in Ariège and on the Atlantic coast, offer a unique flavor profile due to more than 40 years of production and expertise and the famous French will and ability to make everything taste good.

The Adour is possibly the best-known region for French kiwis, where ¼ of French kiwi production takes place thanks to over 350 growers. Kiwis are one of the only exotic fruit that can be grown on home soil in this region, which boasts ideal growing conditions thanks to granite soil, a good amount of humidity and a temperate climate.

Kiwis grown in France are generally harvested in October or November and then kept in cold rooms, to be sold through the spring months.
Kiwis for Export
French kiwis are not just consumed in their region of origin but are exported all over the world. In 2013, France has exported 23,471 tons of kiwi . Great care is taken to ensure that quality, not price, be the name of this game. Exported kiwis rival local kiwis on the market due to their gourmet appeal and pronounced flavor. They may be a touch more expensive, but they’re well worth the price tag!

[3] 60,000 tons : production quantity in China for the season 2013-2014 – from September 2013 to July 2014 (all varieties)
[4] 58,000 tons : production quantity in France for the season 2013-2014 – from September 2013 to July 2014 (includes Hayward kiwis, other green varieties and Gold kiwis
[5] 23,471 tons : total exports from September 2013 to May 2014

Le kiwi français, fruits et légumes de France
Le kiwi français, fruits et légumes de France