The Kiwi fruit, simply known as ‘kiwi’ to its close friends or more formally as ‘Chinese gooseberry’, has found itself at the center of something of a controversy – what is the correct way to eat this fruit? While most fruits and vegetables fall firmly into one of two camps – “safe to eat before peeling” or “peel before eating” – the kiwi resides in something of a gray area. Can this fuzzy fruit’s exterior be consumed, or are there reasons to avoid it?
The answer is that kiwi skin is safe to eat and whether or not you should peel it comes down to personal preference. The odd, fuzzy texture of the skin makes eating it a nonstarter for some, while others consider it the best part of the kiwi eating experience.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the kiwi to decide once and for all which camp you put this fruit into.
Why are Kiwis Hairy?
The most notorious characteristics of the kiwi are the vibrant sensorial experiences it offers. The bright green interior flecked with small black seeds is a surprising juxtaposition to its brown skin. The sweet, tart flavor of the fruit is unlike anything commonly found in your grocery store’s produce section. But perhaps more ubiquitous than either of these is its fuzzy, mysterious exterior.
How did the kiwi come to be hairy in the first place? And what scientific function does this hair provide? It turns out the fuzzy kiwifruit (scientifically known as Actinidia deliciosa) just so happens to be the type of kiwi most commonly sold in grocery stores, though the fuzz is not found on all varieties.
Kiwi fuzz is caused by trichomes, or hair-like particles, that extend from the skin of the fruit. Trichomes help protect the fruit from various environmental conditions that may otherwise cause it harm. The length and density of these trichomes vary dramatically across cultivars of kiwifruit and can dramatically change the sensory experience of eating it.
Many people enjoy eating kiwi with some trichomes, but the cultivars that have long, dense trichomes usually also have thick, tough outer skin. Even those who swear by eating the kiwi skin would likely turn their nose up at the prospect of eating something as fibrous and prickly as some of these fruits.
Are There Hairless Kiwis?
Just as the fuzzy kiwi can vary dramatically in trichome length and density, the opposite end of the spectrum also exists. The Actinidia chinensis varietal has short, fine hair that’s more similar to the fuzz of a peach, which most fruit lovers readily consume. This variety has become more commercially popular in some parts of the world for this exact reason – fewer people are put off by the texture of the skin.
Two other species of Actinidia that may provide more widespread appeal to those who dislike eating hairier kiwis are the A. arguta and A. kolomikta. These fruits offer a completely hairless exterior, though the thing that holds them back from a more widespread commercial presence is that their external texture is not the only change the fruit offers. Though hairless, the A. arguta, for example, is smaller than we are used to – about the size of a grape – and sweet, though not with the same flavor profile consumers have come to expect.
These variations make marketing and selling them complicated. While some may gravitate toward a hairless option, they may find themselves less than thrilled with the changes in size or flavor.
The Difference Between Golden Kiwi fruit and Green Kiwi fruit
There are a number of differences between the golden and green varieties of kiwifruit. Aside from the obvious differences in color, there are a number of variations in appearance. The golden kiwi has very minimal fuzz, while the more common green varieties have more texture to their skin. The green fruit is larger and more oblong in shape, while the gold kiwi is smaller and more round.
There are also small differences in the eating experience of these two fruits. Golden kiwi is sweet and soft, whereas the green kiwi has its characteristically unique tangy flavor. The differences are present though not dramatic, which is why both do so well in the supermarket – the two fruits are clearly related.
Both fruits are incredibly nutrient-dense, packed with vitamin E, potassium, electrolytes, fiber, folate, and more vitamin C than any other fruit. And where are many of these nutrients found? In the skin! So, while the texture may be off-putting, there is a strong case for incorporating this part of the kiwi into your diet – after a thorough washing, of course.
Why are Kiwis Not Vegan (according to some)?
While most would assume that all fruits and vegetables are vegan, some argue that not all fall within the parameters of the diet. Along with kiwi, butternut squash, melon, avocados, and almonds have all been called into question.
The argument? Because each of these products requires bees and a potentially unethical practice called “migratory beekeeping” is generally used to produce them for mass consumption, some vegans are avoiding these crops as they avoid honey.
What is migratory beekeeping? A practice whereby “commercial farms in states like California have to shuttle bees between farms in the backs of trucks because there are not enough native bees in the region to pollinate the plants on which they grow.” (source)
In this method of beekeeping, there are concerns that the bees are kept in undesirable conditions, prevented from moving freely, and exploited for their labor so that farmers can harvest their crops for our consumption. For some vegans, this argument is enough to deter them from consuming crops that may rely on these practices. For others, it’s not a strong enough argument – not all farms practice migratory beekeeping and moreover, it is almost impossible to completely remove oneself from the negative impacts of many aspects of modern society. As Tracy Reiman, a PETA representative, said: “Average shoppers can’t avoid produce that involves migratory beekeeping, any more than they can avoid driving on asphalt.” If Kiwis isn’t vegan because of the use of commercial beekeeping, then neither are many readily accessible crops.
Can You Eat Kiwi Every Day?
Yes – in fact, there are more studies conducted every year that illustrate the many benefits of doing just that!
An article published in the journal Nutrients in 2021, for example, showed that “elite runners who ate two kiwis a day for one month reduced oxidative damage from intense physical training.” (source) These fruits have also been proven to help treat asthma, improve digestive issues, boost immune systems, manage blood pressure, and more!
Are there any risks?
For most people, no – though those who are allergic to the fruit are advised to avoid it. Consuming a food you’re allergic to may cause an itchy throat, tongue swelling, difficulty swallowing, hives, or vomiting. Some studies also suggest kiwi may slow blood clotting, so they could exacerbate issues brought on by bleeding disorders. Avoid kiwi if you fall into one of these groups.
Do Kiwis Help You Sleep?
Some studies suggest that eating kiwi may help you sleep, due to their high levels of serotonin and antioxidants. While the findings are not conclusive, there may be a correlation between consuming kiwi (1-2 medium-sized fruit 1 hour before bed, for adults) and falling asleep more quickly, sleeping soundly, and sleeping longer.
Whether you’re setting out to improve your health or are just interested in exploring a new aspect of this unique fruit, it seems clear that eating more kiwi – fuzzy skin and all – could be just the thing you’re searching for! Visit your local grocery store, see which varieties they have to offer, and dive in!