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Sweet and sour, kiwi is packed with antioxidants

The kiwifruit is a powerhouse of antioxidants like vitamin C, quinic acid and chlorogenic acid; and can be used to make jams, salads and salsa

(Left) Kiwifruit and chia jam; and kiwifruit salsa verde. (Photos by Nandita Iyer)

By Nandita Iyer

LAST PUBLISHED 03.02.2024  |  08:59 AM IST

I sliced a kiwifruit this morning, and the burst of fluorescent green filled me with a sense of virtue. It got me contemplating why the colour is universally regarded as a symbol of health and goodness. Consider all the green-labelled items marketed as flag-bearers of well-being—green smoothies, matcha green tea, green goddess dressing, green juice, green salads, and more. One reason likely stems from colour psychology, where we instinctively associate green with freshness, natural vitality, and vibrancy in the environment. This connection extends to our perception of food, translating green into notions of freshness, wholesomeness and minimal processing.

Also read | A kiwifruit a day can keep bad mood away?

Beyond mere perception, the reality of many green vegetables and fruits aligns with this symbolism. Most of these are full of essential nutrients and vitamins, earning them the label of superfoods—think kale, green tea, spirulina and avocado. The food industry strategically capitalises on the visual appeal of the colour green, leading consumers to believe that green products (or even packaging) are synonymous with freshness, healthiness, and nutrition. It’s a fascinating interplay of psychology and reality that shapes our dietary choices and preferences.

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Perception and reality of green being healthy are very well aligned when it comes to the kiwifruit. Dr William Li, Harvard trained cancer specialist, whose TED talk Can We Eat To Beat Cancer has over 3.4 million views, believes that eating just one kiwifruit a day can reduce oxidative damage of DNA by 60%. This means lowering the chances of chronic inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and such other chronic diseases. Just this fact is enough to elevate kiwifruit to a super-fruit in my eyes.

Some years ago, my domestic help asked me to order some kiwifruit for her as one of her kids was suspected to have dengue. She also plucked some papaya leaves from our garden, enlightening me that these two are the most important weapons for dengue to elevate a falling platelet count. While I knew the craze for papaya leaves, the kiwi was a new learning. I did some research to understand if this actually works on the platelet count in dengue patients, and learnt that neither of the two have any clinically relevant benefits. However, kiwifruit with its capacity to repair DNA, is a powerhouse of antioxidants like vitamin C, quinic acid and chlorogenic acid, can aid general recovery from an infection, so it is not a bad idea to include it in your diet on a regular basis.

The question that arises is should you eat it after peeling or with the peel. Before you think I am crazy, there are a whole bunch of people on social media who make videos eating kiwifruit with the peel in an attempt to shock their audience. There is however nothing shocking about this. It is not as crazy as what people would do in the game show Fear Factor. The fuzz is nothing but nature’s way of keeping small bugs away and adding surface area that controls the moisture in the fruit, helping to preserve it. Rubbing the fruit on a rough piece of cloth takes off the fuzz and it can be bitten into like an apple or pear. There are also varieties specially cultivated to have a smooth fuzz-free skin, which can be easily eaten with the peel. Eating a kiwi with the peel makes it a more portable, easy-to-eat fruit.

Whether you decide to eat it with or without the peel, there’s no denying that very few fruits come close to the unique flavour profile of a kiwifruit with its sweet, sour taste and aromatic notes, juicy flesh and crunchy parts with the seeds and a cross-section pretty enough to inspire still-life paintings. It looks all glassy and fragile, but it is rather strong. The diced fruit holds up well, not getting mushy in salads, or when skewered with cheese or grilled.

If fruits like pineapple and kiwi leave a stinging sensation in your mouth, there’s a reason for it. They have enzymes that break down protein—i.e. these fruits try to eat you when you are eating them. To bypass this quirk of nature, choose fully ripe fruit, peel and/or cook with the fruit to deactivate these enzymes or mix it with other ingredients, as in a salad, where the enzymes act on the other ingredients before it can act on you. It also makes a great use case for kiwi pulp as a meat tenderiser.

Kiwifruit and Chia jam
Makes around 200g

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Ingredients
3 ripe kiwifruits
4-5 tbsp sugar
1 star anise (or 1 red chilli)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chia seeds

Method

Peel and dice the kiwi. In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine with sugar, star anise (or red chilli) and lime juice. Bring to a simmer and mash with a potato masher to crush the fruit. Stir occasionally. Let the mixture simmer for 12-15 minutes on a low flame. Add in the chia seeds and stir well. Remove from heat and let it cool.

Once cooled, save in a jar and refrigerate. This quick jam can be spread on toast or used in a cheese board

Kiwifruit Salsa Verde
Makes 1 cup

Ingredients
2 ripe kiwifruits
1 small cucumber
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
1 green chilli, sliced
2 tsp pickled jalapenos
Juice of half a lime
Half tsp salt
Half tsp cumin seed powder

Method

Peel and dice the kiwifruit and cucumber. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and chill for 1-2 hours.

Serve with crackers or chips, in burrito bowls, inside a tortilla wrap or over loaded nachos.

Also read | If bread is your canvas, invent new fillings

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer’s latest book is The Great Indian Thali—Seasonal Vegetarian Wholesomeness (Roli Books). She posts @saffrontrail on Twitter and Instagram.