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Kiwis, We Love You Just as You Are

March 24, 2014

Photo credit: Getty Images

Take a good look at this kiwi, because future generations of the juicy, green jewel may be boasting a new look some day soon.

Allow us to explain: A little fuzz on your kiwi may not seem like a big deal, but the fruit’s rough brown skin is a sticking point with persnickety consumers who prefer low-maintenance foods such as grapes and apples. In fact, plant geneticists in New Zealand are racing to develop a fuzz-less variety that could catapult the exotic kiwi into the grocery store spotlight.

The kiwi is hardly the only fruit to have its genetics puzzled and picked over. Perhaps you’ve noticed seedless grapes, watermelons, lemons, and bananas in recent years, the result of shifting consumer preferences—who wants to bother with troublesome seeds?—that have prompted scientists to selectively breed out the trait. 

Drab colors and misshapen form, too, seem to rub consumers the wrong way. Large, crisp Red Delicious apples were bred for their vibrantly red hue—perhaps at the expense of taste. And these days, tomatoes are bred for their rosy color and uniform size. Some heirloom tomatoes, with their mottled colors and ungainly shapes, seem headed the way of the dodo.

True, part of the kiwi’s fuzz problem is a matter of convenience. Like the stubborn seeds of a watermelon, which get in the way of every juicy bite, a kiwi’s rough hide can be difficult to dispatch. (We suggest chopping off slivers at each end and scooping out its sweet flesh with a spoon.) But as do apples and tomatoes, kiwis have a cosmetic problem. 

The Wall Street Journal distills the phenomenon perfectly with an anecdote from Auckland mother Megan Willmott, who said her two-year-old daughter “will make a big choking display as if I’m poisoning her” if any skin remains on a kiwi served to her.

In an ideal world, a kiwi would be both delicious and easy to eat. But research is costing the New Zealand government millions of dollars. Isn’t that a lot of money for something that’s already delectable? And it’s not difficult to eat, once one knows a trick or two.

Someone pass us a kiwi. We don’t mind a bit of fuzz.