To Eat, or Not to Eat

January 22, 2009
By Shayna Hilburg, Bedford, NY

The unpeeled kiwifruit is one I would not normally choose to bite into. The furry and crunchy skin distracts from the pulpy and sweet inside. However, there are some people who disagree with me on this matter and eat a kiwi like most Americans would eat an apple or a pear: skin and all. According to “Eating Smart -- Kiwi Capers,” eating the brown fur that covers kiwis is safe. Nevertheless, many Americans like myself still choose to go skinless. The kiwifruit has many health benefits when peeled, and the few extra advantages obtained by eating the skin are, for many, outweighed by the negatives.

Actinidia Deliciosa, the scientific name for what we know as kiwifruit, has a fascinating history. Originally known as a Chinese Gooseberry, it was later renamed after the kiwi bird which it resembles (“History of Kiwifruit”). The kiwifruit is specifically a berry, a subcategory of fruit (“Eating Smart -- Kiwi Capers”). We are one of the top kiwifruit producers, but it is also prevalent in New Zealand, Italy, Chile, France, Greece, Japan, and China—where it is native to. Kiwis began their history in the United States of America in 1904, when the Department of Agriculture first obtained seeds to plant kiwifruit (“Kiwifruit Actinidia Deliciosa”). There are other varieties of the kiwi such as the Hardy Kiwi, whose hairless and tender skin is unquestionably eaten (Reich). Beyond the Hardy Kiwi and Actinidia Deliciosa, there are approximately sixty species under the Actinidia genus. Some of the other species are inedible altogether, and there are strong distinctions in size and hairiness within the genus (“Kiwis”). Whether or not the skin is eaten, the kiwifruit has rich origins and is a delight enjoyed by people around the world.

This worldwide treat is full of health benefits. The kiwifruit is the most nutrient-dense of all fruits. Each kiwi is loaded with antioxidants, amino acids, folic acid, Copper, Vitamins C, A, and E, Potassium, and countless other valuable nutrients (Wetherbee). A serving of kiwi has more fiber than an apple but contains fewer calories. This makes it a great way to obtain fiber for weight conscious individuals. Kiwi acts as a natural blood thinner without the skin, but eating that thin layer of fuzz can enhance the countless benefits a skinned kiwi brings. The skin is home to a great deal of fiber. It also contains flavonoid antioxidants which can prevent allergies, viruses, inflammation, and has even been found to help prevent cancer (“Health Benefits of Kiwi Fruit”).

So why eat kiwifruit with the skin on? Apart from the added fiber and flavonoids, the skin adds a unique texture. The added crunch is enticing to many who relish the out of the ordinary fuzz. Unlike the fuzz that covers peaches, kiwi fur is thicker, coarser, and more noticeable while eating. When a kiwi is peeled, there is undoubtedly some loss of green fruit, which could be eliminated by eating the skin. There is less fruit wasted, and also less manmade waste created by eating the skin. When I scoop out the juicy inside of a kiwifruit, I use at least two paper towels, a bowl, a spoon, and a knife. Juice drips from the fruit and onto my counter. By eating the entire fruit, I could eliminate the waste and mess that peeling presents. In New Zealand, it is normal to eat kiwi skin, and people do not think twice when they see someone take a bite out of the furry brown egg. When I see people eat kiwi skin, I usually cringe and even call them crazy. But, I suppose I might have it wrong. As I sit teasing and wincing, there they are enjoying their crunchy, fiber-filled snack.

However, I still have reservations about eating the hairy brown coating on my favorite fruit. Sure, I eat peaches with their fuzzy skin, but the fur on kiwis is far longer and thicker. An urban legend says that the skin will stick to a person’s intestines and kill them; but since New Zealanders and many other people have been enjoying kiwi skin for years, I doubt this is true. Since my research presented me with far more positives than negatives to eating the skin, I decided to try it for myself. I rinsed off the kiwi in the sink, peeled off the sticker, examined my snack, and brought it up to my mouth. I found myself laughing at the thought of eating this furry fruit and had to lower my hand until I composed myself. My family has taught me that kiwis were like bananas or mangos: meant to be peeled. It almost seemed taboo to be eating this fruit with its skin on. I think that the brown skin connoted dirtiness to me. After a few attempts, I conquered my laughing fit and sunk my teeth into the berry. The crunch seemed alright at first, but I then realized what research could not tell me; the skin was tough, and I found myself chewing it for almost thirty seconds. Once the juicy and tangy green section I was accustomed to eating slid down my throat, I was left with a bitter, chewy furball. After my first bite I peeled the fruit and resorted to my usual ways; unable to conquer the entire kiwi with its skin on.

Am I stuck in my own habits? If I had tried this experiment earlier in my life would the kiwi skin now taste normal to me? I do not think I am afraid of change, but perhaps my brain is resisting acceptance of this new texture and flavor added onto an old favorite. Maybe if I continue to eat the skin, I will become accustomed to the practice. But, I am a picky eater and a major kiwi fan. Why turn one of my beloved snacks into a chore or exercise? I doubt I will change. I do not need more fiber in my diet, and I can find flavonoids in other fruits and vegetables. Despite my research that shows nothing wrong with eating kiwi skin, I will continue to be a messy, wasteful peeler. For me, the benefits do not outweigh the negatives, but I have become more open-minded and tolerant as an effect of my research. I will no longer question and stare at someone taking a bite out of an unpeeled kiwi, and I invite you to make the choice for yourself.

Works Cited
"Eating Smart -- Kiwi Capers." Cancer Resource Center. 22 Nov 2008
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