奇異果「尋根」之旅

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1996 / 10月

文‧陳雅玲 圖‧薛繼光



我叫獼猴桃,是孫悟空最喜歡吃的水果。我的本名你可能不熟,但說起我的洋名「奇異果」,可就大大有名啦。

世人都以為我和奇異鳥一樣,是紐西蘭的特產。其實外樸內豔、真人不露相的我,卻不是紐西蘭的「土產」;和近來湧入的亞洲新移民一樣,我也來自遙遠的東方中國。不過「移民」的資歷,可要比這些後生晚輩早了將近一百年呢。

這一趟千里迢迢的「奇異」之旅是怎麼發生的呢?說來話長……

搭乘紐航國內線怳G人座的小飛機從奧克蘭向東起飛,約莫四怳迨斂薊漸景,就來到紐西蘭北島東岸的陶藍加。

從飛機上鳥瞰,這裡不像紐西蘭其他鄉間般綠野平疇、一望無際;相反的,一塊塊綠地上全都圈著綠籬,像是孩子們堆出來的綠色城堡。

真正身臨其境,開車來到這綠色「城牆」下,才驚覺:這「牆」還真高啊,足足有怳迨膜堨炙k,相當於五層樓了。不同於走在台北林立的高樓間的壓迫感,這些高大的綠籬不時有風掃過枝頭,沙沙作響,保護著裡面陶藍加人最寶貴的財產──奇異果園。

其實不只是陶藍加,整個「富饒灣」附近最主要的農作,就是奇異果;如今紐西蘭種植奇異果的果園共有兩千八百個,面積達到一萬多公頃,外銷全世界六怑荌禤a,每年為紐西蘭賺進三億多美元的外匯,是所有蔬果產品中外銷的第一名。

在許多國家的消費者心中,奇異果幾乎和紐西蘭劃上等號了;卻少有人知道,在中國河南、河北、山西、四川、湖北、江西、廣西等省分,奇異果就是山區常見的野果──獼猴桃。

道道地地的中國野果

中國典籍中,最早有關獼猴桃的記載,許多人認為是《詩經.檜風》中的「隰有萇楚」。

「隰有萇楚,猗儺其枝,夭之沃沃,樂子之無知。隰有萇楚,猗儺其華,夭之沃沃,樂子之無家。隰有萇楚,猗儺其實,夭之沃沃,樂子之無室。」

學者考證,詩中那個姿態婀娜、花容嬌妍、又會生育的萇楚,就是獼猴桃。

更直接的記載,始於唐朝田園詩人岑參的詩集「宿太白東溪李老舍寄弟姪」:

「……中庭井欄上,一架獼猴桃,石泉飯香粳,酒甕開新糟,……」。從詩句中可知,至少一千兩百年以前,獼猴桃已經被人以棚架栽培,種在庭院中了。

「在我們四川縣志上,也有獼猴桃的記載。詩聖杜甫在四川時,成都尹嚴武送給他由青城山道士用獼猴桃釀造的『乳酒』。杜甫還賦詩讚揚了美酒『氣味濃香幸見分』呢,」四川省自然資源研究所副所長王明忠說。

在中國歷代藥典中,也少不了獼猴桃的一席之地。明朝李時珍在《本草綱目》中,形容獼猴桃「其形如梨,其色如桃,而彌猴喜食,故有諸名……。主治:止暴渴、解煩熱、壓丹石、下淋石熱壅,調中下氣,主骨節風,癱緩不隨……。」用現代的話來說,就是獼猴桃可以消暑解渴、幫助消化、減緩風濕、過敏、腎結石、嘔吐等症狀。

此外,《本草衍義》、《開寶本草》、《本草拾遺》等藥典,對獼猴桃也有不少論述。有的描述其形貌「葉大如掌,上綠下白,有毛似苧麻而團」,「子繁細,其色如芥子,枝條柔弱,高二三丈,多附木而生」;有的記敘它生長的地方「淺山道旁則有存者,深山則多為猴所食矣」;有的闡述其功用「食之解實熱」,「其實形似雞卵大,經霜始甘美,可食,皮堪作紙」。

除了藥典上的記載,獼猴桃被一般民間利用得更是淋漓盡致。它的根可以製造殺蟲劑、莖的纖維適宜造紙、莖內黏液可當作黏膠、葉可以餵養牲口、花能夠提煉香油,用在食品加工和釀酒;種子則可以榨油。

西人驚豔記

這樣在中國「物盡其用」的植物,終於在怳E世紀的時候,被西方來的植物學家、傳教士「驚為天果」,蒐羅到他們國家「亟待充實的後花園」了。

最早蒐集到獼猴桃的西方人,是英國的羅伯.福究。一八四三年,他在倫敦園藝協會的委託下,旅行中國各地。根據合約,他的任務是「蒐集以往沒有在英國栽培過的觀賞性或實用性的植物和種子,……取得中國花園以及農業方面的資料。」不過獼猴桃是雌雄異體的植物,羅伯所取得的是雌株標本,沒有異性一親芳澤,是無法傳宗接代的。

在前仆後繼之下,英國一家種苗公司於一九○四年,將栽種成功的獼猴桃登錄在其新產品目錄上。其後,美國、法國也有專人導入。「移民」獼猴桃最有成績的,無疑是紐西蘭了。和其他國家「有心栽花」的做法不同,紐西蘭不但是「無心插柳」,而且還是由一位女教師帶回國的。

話說怳E世紀末,蘇格蘭教會在中國江西省的宜昌市成立了一個傳教士站,一位常停駐當地的英國種苗蒐集專家威爾森對獼猴桃極有興趣,在他的大力推薦下,宜昌的外國人開始嚐試這種其貌不揚的水果,「驚豔」之餘,紛紛將獼猴桃帶回自己的國家。

來自紐西蘭的女教師伊莎貝爾.佛萊瑟,就在一九○四年,將一把獼猴桃的種子帶回家鄉,交給一對從事園藝栽培的亞力森兄弟。這把種子,便是如今紐西蘭奇異果產業的最初始起源。

果蒂綿延

獼猴桃在紐西蘭的栽培出奇順利。不但水土適宜,當地人對這種水果也特別青睞。一九二六年,一家報紙出現這樣的標題:「一種極有價值的新水果」,內文引述著名的種苗專家海華.懷特的話:「它適合做果醬、果凍、水果沙拉,簡直無與倫比。」一年後,海華又寫了一篇文章盛讚獼猴桃,「它是一種非常有價值的水果,因為它在冬天後熟期很長,剛好可以在水果短缺的冬季給我們增加水果的供給。」

這位海華先生,就是改良獼猴桃品種的大功臣,如今全紐西蘭的商業栽培中,百分之九怳K都是「海華」品種。

在報紙和園藝專業媒體的鼓吹之下,獼猴桃很快地竄紅,加上本地消費者捧場,果園紛紛改種起獼猴桃來。

不過在愈來愈多果園投入栽培後,「果口爆炸」,除了製成果醬等加工製品,紐西蘭開始嘗試把獼猴桃推上國際市場。

必也「改名」乎

獼猴桃在一九五二年第一次外銷,是到英國試賣。當時大家對於這種水果長途運輸的知識還很缺乏,卻誤打誤撞地和冷藏在攝氏七度的檸檬同艙而渡,結果橫越過半個地球抵達英國時,獼猴桃的熟度正好,風味絕佳,一舉擄獲英國人的芳心。

次年,果農聯合會又把獼猴桃賣到英國和澳洲;到了五○年代末期,另一家出口商則嘗試打開美國市場。此舉奠定了紐西蘭在奇異果產業的世界性地位,因為獼猴桃的洋名「奇異果」,就是在那個時候叫出來的。

獼猴桃在中國又稱陽桃、羊桃,尤其是在長江流域;在中國的歐洲人,則因為它的滋味類似歐洲鵝莓,所以又稱為「中國鵝莓」或「宜昌鵝莓」、「宜昌醋栗」。

獼猴桃移植到紐西蘭後,最普遍的名稱是中國鵝莓,也有人乾脆叫「CHINAS」。這名字在自己國內叫叫也就罷了,反正代表異國風味,還可以吸引本地消費者興趣;但是要代表紐西蘭的商品賣到國外,總不適宜再冠個中國「姓」。此外,鵝莓通常長得很靠近地面,這樣的水果也幾乎不會被美國農業檢疫署允許入境。

美國進口商因此建議改個名字,最好是個有毛利特色、音節短的表音字。

最後,紐西蘭出口商決定取名「奇異果」,一來因為紐西蘭特有的夜行性珍禽奇異鳥──翅膀退化,圓嘟嘟的身上,披著一層褐色的羽毛──和獼猴桃的容貌怳嶸咻;況且二次大戰時,紐西蘭大兵就被稱為「Kiwis」,用「奇異果」來命名,真是再適合不過。

從此,除了少數地方如法國還稱獼猴桃為「陽桃」、義大利人稱呼其拉丁學名「Actinidia」外,「奇異果」這個名字,已經廣泛運用在科學、技術、商業等各個領域了。有了響亮的名字,奇異果在海外更受歡迎,紐西蘭出現第二波栽培熱。

但是到了一九八七年,產量再度暴增,大量滯銷下,奇異果產業遭受重大打擊。

打整體戰

不過危機也是轉機,「為了挽救局勢,紐西蘭政府出面成立『紐西蘭奇異果營銷局』,取代原有各自出口的產業組織,加強從選育品種、果園生產、包裝、冷藏、運輸、裝船、海外配售、廣告促銷等環節的配合,整體作戰。」奇異果營銷局專案經理史都.雅柏說。

例如光是在品種研究上,紐西蘭政府每年要投入一千四百萬紐幣。紐西蘭園藝及食品研究學院附設的研究中心,主要就是針對奇異果。

根據消費者喜好,研究中心要培育出最理想的果肉顏色、甜度、硬度。「消費者不喜歡蒼白的顏色,所以顏色愈綠愈好;硬度則有助於儲藏、外銷,我們現在的採收硬度甚至可以儲存九個月之久,」研究員拉賽爾.羅說。

在國家全力支持下,儘管法國、義大利、西班牙、希臘、智利、美國等後起之秀強力競爭,紐西蘭仍保有奇異果世界霸主地位。

尤其在東亞的日本、台灣、南韓等地,奇異果消費量與日俱增,去年台灣人吃掉將近一千萬公斤,其中超過三分之二來自紐西蘭。

也是台灣土產

台灣人吃那麼多進口奇異果似乎有點冤枉,因為地理位置與中國大陸相連,台灣自己就有七、八種野生可食的獼猴桃。

民國六怞~代,「台灣農村」雜誌上,如今已過世的台大園藝系資深教授諶克終寫了一篇文章,介紹「新興果樹獼猴桃之發現與開始栽培及研究」。

諶克終是湖南人,曾在家鄉看過吃過當地俗稱藤梨的獼猴桃。六怳T年,他到台大山地梅峰農場,在樹林中一抬眼,竟然看到一串串獼猴桃掛在枝上,開心極了,便與當時農場場長康有德、園藝系主任馬溯軒等人商議,決定從事繁殖研究。

「查獼猴桃為我國野生原產之著名果樹,素為歐美人士所重視,在原產之我國,至今仍任其野生於各地,不加以栽培,實有傷古昔被稱為園藝先進國之尊嚴……」諶克終在文章中這麼寫道。

然而民族情感畢竟敵不過商業利益的考量,儘管當時台大已經研究出「芽頂組織培養法及插木法」,可以繁殖成功;但是後來看到紐西蘭所打下的江山,根本沒有台灣插針的縫了,就放棄了農業發展的可能,而只做品種的蒐集與研究。目前在梅峰農場還有一個三、五百平方公尺大的標本園,蒐羅台灣、大陸的野生種。

中興大學園藝系教授倪正柱則更進一步做獼猴桃品種的選育,但是一樣未推廣為商業栽培。「台灣的緯度只能在海拔一千五百公尺到兩千公尺的山區栽培,但是高山農業對水土保持的影響太大,所以我們只做學術研究,不敢推廣栽種,」他說。

倒是台灣北部大壩尖山下的雪霸農場和北橫的中、上巴陵一帶,各在怞~前及五年前自紐西蘭引進奇異果苗栽種。

「台灣種的奇異果不必像紐西蘭一樣,為了長途運輸,必須提早採收,所以我們的品質更香更甜;但是台灣有颱風、梅雨等天候影響,收成很不穩定,因此不能當作農場主力,」雪霸農場的范增達說。

南北合

獼猴桃的正宗原鄉──中國大陸,近年看到這原本毫不起眼的野果竟有這般「創匯」能耐,遠非當年所能想像,也已經開始急起直追,設立研究機構,從事商業栽培。

「大陸把獼猴桃看成是中國的代表,在幾個省分都設了果樹研究所,打算把『中華獼猴桃』發揚光大,」台大園藝系副教授陳中指出,大陸現在挑了幾個品種選育,外國人去參觀,只能吃水果,不能給種源,「寶貝得不得了。」

但是奇異果要作品種改良,一定要回到獼猴桃的原生地,取得野生種不可。因此紐西蘭和中國大陸現在四川共同成立了獼猴桃研究中心,蒐集優良品種,作為將來育種材料。

和大陸合作,紐西蘭不怕將來多了競爭對手嗎?「中國大陸在北半球,紐西蘭在南半球,兩地的生產期剛好差半年,可以互補;況且大陸人口那麼多,生產的自己吃都不夠了。」拉賽爾.羅倒是很樂觀。

紐西蘭研究中心希望有一天能培育出不同顏色的奇異果,增加消費者的選擇。「我們擔心消費者吃膩了同一種奇異果,所以要增加品種,像蘋果一樣,有紅的、有綠的。」拉賽爾.羅說,研究中心也正在發展一種小小、不需要削皮的品種,「可以讓小朋友在午餐盒中放一個。」

鳥與猴的戰爭

對大陸來說,儘管有先天優勢──野生品種多,可以有機會孕育出各種美味的優良品種,但是商品化的經驗不足,想要打入國際市場,仍有許多要學的功課。最快的辦法,就是和紐西蘭合作,取得這方面的知識技術。

但是儘管郎有情,妹有意,目前雙方仍無法進一步合作。「我們的珍貴品種中,有一種紅心獼猴桃,吃起來和蜂蜜差不多,紐西蘭現在很想要得到這種品種,」王明忠遺憾地指出,但是大陸現在有種子資源的保密規定,「可以偷,不可以賣,」所以仍無法出國門一步。

不過世事難料,誰也不曉得以後的政策會怎麼變,將來若是大陸相關單位放寬規定,超級市場的貨架上就可以看到各式各樣的新品種了。

只是不知到時候,這些水果該叫「奇異果」,還是「獼猴桃」呢?看來,還有一場「猴子」與「鳥」的戰爭呢。

p.117

掛在樹上的獼猴桃,像不像一隻隻小獼猴頑皮地伸長著手,盪在枝頭間?

﹙左﹚高大的綠籬旁,是管理良好的奇異果園。由於甫經採收,看似只剩枯枝,其實蘊藏無限生機,在暖暖的冬陽下,靜待下一季的萌芽。

p.118

清朝吳其濬的《植物名實圖考長編》中,

有詳細的獼猴桃圖像。

p.119

這張老照片是英國種苗蒐集專家威爾森在一九○八年怳@月四日,於四川省拍攝的「陽桃」。﹙紐西蘭園藝科學協會提供﹚

p.120

紐西蘭女教師佛萊瑟從中國返鄉時,帶了一把獼猴桃種子,造就了今天

紐西蘭的奇異果產業。

﹙紐西蘭園藝科學協會提供﹚

p.121

瞧這隻可愛的奇異鳥,和奇異果是否也可以稱兄道弟?(紐西蘭觀光局提供)

一九五三年第一批賣到英國的奇異果,還是掛著

「中國鵝莓」的名字。

﹙紐西蘭園藝科學協會提供﹚

p.122

貼好商標的奇異果,即將分級包裝。

這部古老的水果分級機已經進入博物館。把一顆顆奇異果往上拋,重的落點近,輕的落點遠,如此就可以分出大小等級了。

p.123

冷藏廠的溫度常保攝氏零度,奇異果放在裡面,鮮度可以維持半年,藉此保持市場的貨源分散,價格穩定。

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在紐西蘭,T型棚架是奇異果極常見的栽種方式。

在紐西蘭園藝及食品研究學院的「梯普奇」研究中心,研究員正致力研究出各式各樣的新品種,好讓消費者將來有更多選擇。

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台灣的北橫山區,也有農場開始種植奇異果,不過品種不是本地野生的,仍是從紐西蘭迢迢引進。(張良綱攝)

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EN

Journey to the Root of the Fruit--Digging up the Kiwifruit's Origins

Elaine Chen /photos courtesy of Hsueh Chi-kuang /tr. by Robert Taylor


My name is mihoutao, and I'm the fruit the Monkey King Sun Wukong loved best. You might not know me by my own name, but by my Western name, "kiwifruit," I'm pretty darned famous.

Most people think that like that bird they call the kiwi, I'm a native of New Zealand. But just as my drab exterior hides my sweet and juicy flesh inside, I don't often reveal my true identity. In fact, like many of the Asian immigrants who have recently been flooding into New Zealand, I too come from faraway China. But I've had my "resident status" far longer than all those newcomers-almost a century longer.

How did I come to make my long and strange journey to this land? It's a long story. . . .

Climbing aboard a 12-seater Air New Zealand plane on a domestic flight from Auckland, in less than 45 minutes we arrive at Tauranga, on the East coast of New Zealand's North Island.

The landscape we look down on from the air is very different from the unrestricted vistas of fields and open country we have seen elsewhere in New Zealand. Here, patches of green land are boxed in by hedges which look for all the world like green walls built by children for play castles.

Down on the ground, when we drive close up to these green "castles," we are in for a bigger surprise: their "walls" are remarkably high-a full 15 meters or more, as tall as a five-storey building. But unlike Taipei's skyscrapers which tower so oppressively above one, these green walls whisper with the sound of the wind in their leaves, and they are there to protect the most valuable assets of the people of Tauranga: their kiwifruit orchards.

In fact it's not just Tauranga-the kiwi-fruit is the most important crop of the whole Bay of Plenty area. Today New Zealand has more than 2700 kiwifruit orchards, with a total area of over 10,000 hectares. The fruit is exported to 60 countries around the world, and earns New Zealand well over US$300 million a year in foreign currency, making it the country's highest-earning horticultural export.

Chinese through and through

In the minds of consumers in many countries, the kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) is almost synonymous with New Zealand. But few realize that in Chinese provinces such as Henan, Hebei, Shanxi, Sichuan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Guangxi, A. deliciosa and other species of the genus Actinidia are common wild fruits of mountain areas, where they go by the name of mihoutao-the "macaque peach."

In the Chinese classics, the earliest reference to Actinidia is widely believed to be this passage from the Guifeng section of the Book of Songs: "In the marsh grows chang-chu/ Tender her shoots/ Glistening beauty/ Blissfully unknowing./ In the marsh grows changchu/ Tender her blooms/ Glistening beauty/ Blissfully unfettered./ In the marsh grows changchu/ Tender her fruits/ Glistening beauty/ Blissfully unburdened."

Scholars identify the graceful, delicate-flowered and fecund changchu of the poem as mihoutao.

More reliable records begin with the poem For My Nephew, While Staying at Old Li's Near Taibai East River, by Cen Shen (715-770) of the Tang dynasty:

". . . On the well in the central courtyard/ A lattice of mihoutao/ The fragrance of rice cooked with water from the rocky spring/ Break open a crock of new wine. . . ." From these lines, we learn that at least 1200 years ago Actinidia was grown over trellises and pergolas in the courtyards of dwellings.

"In county annals from Sichuan, there are also references to Actinidia. When the great poet Du Fu was in Sichuan, Yi Yanwu of Chengdu made him a gift of some 'milky wine' brewed from mihoutao by the Daoist priests of the Qingcheng Mountains. Du composed a poem praising the wine's taste as striking a happy balance between strength and fragrance." So says Wang Mingzhong, deputy director of the Sichuan Natural Resources Institute.

Actinidia also has a place in virtually all China's ancient pharmacopoeias. In the monumental Ben Cao Gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica) compiled by Li Shizhen (1518-1593), the "macaque peach" is described thus: "It has the shape of the pear and the color of a peach, and monkeys like to eat it; hence its name. . . . Main uses: dispels extreme thirst, hot irritability, and kidney and bladder stones; regulates the qi of the lower body; relieves rheumatism of the joints. . . ." In other words, the fruit was considered to be cooling and thirst-quenching, and able to assist digestion and relieve various illnesses.

Other herbal pharmacopoeias, such as the Ben Cao Yanyi (Amplified Materia Medica, written in 1116 by Kou Zongshi of the Song dynasty), Kai Bao Ben Cao (Materia Medica of the Kai Bao Reign, also from the Song) and Ben Cao Shiyi (Supplementary Materia Medica, from the Tang), have much to say about the mihoutao too. It is described as having "leaves the size of the palm of the hand, green on top and pale underneath, and hairy like ramie, but round"; "its seeds are many and small, and the color of mustard seeds, its branches slender and fragile. It grows 20-30 feet tall, usually supported on trees." As to where mihoutao grows: "In the lower hills some remain near the pathways, but deep in the mountains, most are eaten by monkeys." They also describe how "eating it dispels 'excess heat,'" or how "the fruit is as large as a hen's egg, and becomes sweet and edible after the first frosts; the skin can be used to make paper."

In fact, as well as being recorded in herbal pharmacopoeias, Actinidia was, and still is, put to a plethora of uses by the common people. A pesticide can be made from the roots; the stem fibers are suitable for papermaking; the sticky sap inside the stems can be used as glue; the leaves serve as fodder for livestock; fragrant oils extracted from the flowers are used to flavor foods and mihoutao wine; and oil can be pressed from the seeds.

Immediate favor with Westerners

This extraordinarily versatile Chinese plant was finally discovered, with surprise and delight, by 19th-century Western botanists and missionaries, who collected it and sent it back to enrich the gardens of their homelands.

The first Westerner to collect the mihou-tao was the Scotsman Robert Fortune, who in 1843 was sent by the Horticultural Society of London to travel throughout China in order, in the words of the agreement under which he was engaged, to "collect seeds and plants of an ornamental or useful kind, not previously cultivated in Great Britain and . . . to obtain information on Chinese gardening and agriculture." But Actinidia is dioecious -it has separate male and female plants-and Fortune's specimens were all female, so they could not have fruited.

After several such false starts, Actinidia plants grown from seed appeared for the first time in the "List of novelties" of a London nursery firm in 1904. Subsequently, it was also introduced into the USA and France.

Actinidia's most successful "migration," however, was undoubtedly to New Zealand. But unlike other nations whose collectors took great pains but with no lasting result, the plant was introduced to New Zealand almost fortuitously, by a woman missionary teacher.

It happened like this: around the turn of the 20th century, the English plant collector Ernest Wilson made Yichang in China's Jiangxi Province the base for many of his collecting expeditions. Wilson was very taken with the mihoutao, and following his enthusiastic recommendation, members of the small foreign community in Yichang tried this somewhat undistinguished-looking fruit. It was so much to their liking that some residents even sent it back to their own countries.

When Miss Isabel Fraser, a teacher and evangelist at a Church of Scotland mission station at Yichang, returned home to New Zealand in 1904, she took with her some mihoutao seed, which she gave to two brothers of the Allison family of Wanganui, who were noted horticulturists. These seeds were the origin of New Zealand's kiwifruit industry of today.

Spreading branches

The cultivation of Actinidia in New Zealand was remarkably successful. Not only did the soil and climate suit the plant well, but local people also took a particular liking to its fruit. In 1926, a New Zealand newspaper article headlined "A Valuable New Fruit" quoted the well-known Auckland nurseryman Hayward Wright as saying that "for jams, jellies and fruit salads, it is unsurpassed." A year later, Wright himself wrote glowingly of the "Chinese gooseberry": "It is highly valuable as a fruit, for it ripens in the winter over a long period, thus making a valuable addition to our short supply of winter fruits."

This Mr. Wright rendered sterling service to the later industry by selecting improved Actinidia cultivars-98% of commercial plantings in New Zealand today are of the "Hayward" cultivar which he developed.

With continued praise from newspapers and from horticultural and gardening journals, Actinidia quickly became popular with gardeners. After it also gained the interest of the fruit-consuming public, many commercial orchardists went over to planting it.

But as more and more plantings were established, the prospect of oversupply induced New Zealand growers not only to develop outlets such as processing into jams and other products, but also to try promoting the fruit on the international market.

What was your name in the States?

Chinese gooseberries were first exported from New Zealand in a trial shipment to the United Kingdom in 1952. At that time knowledge of transport requirements over such long distances was almost non-existent, but by good fortune the fruit were sent with a shipment of lemons refrigerated to 7蚓. When they arrived on the other side of the world they were in perfect eating condition, and their excellent flavor immediately won over the British importers.

The following year, the New Zealand Fruitgrowers' Federation again shipped kiwifruits to Britain and also to Australia, and at the end of the 1950s another exporter tried to break into the US market. This move laid the foundations for New Zealand's global status in the kiwifruit industry, for it was at this time that Actinidia was baptized with its modern Western name.

In China Actinidia is most commonly known as mihoutao or, along the Yangtze River in particular, as yangtao. Because it was thought similar in taste to the European gooseberry, Europeans in China gave it names such as "Chinese gooseberry," or "Ichang gooseberry." "Itchang currant" was another variant.

After arriving in New Zealand, mihoutao were most widely known as Chinese gooseberries, or sometimes just as "Chinas" for short. In New Zealand this name was considered adequate, and even had a certain exotic ring to it which could arouse local consumers' interest. But New Zealand produce being sent for sale overseas could not very well sail under "Chinese" colors. More seriously, the name "gooseberry" suggested a fruit grown close to the ground, and as such it was almost certain to be excluded by US Department of Agriculture quarantine officers.

For this reason the American importers suggested a change of name, preferably to a short and phonetic Maori word.

In the end the New Zealand exporters plumped for the name "kiwifruit"-on the one hand because of the fruit's remarkable resemblance to New Zealand's unique, flightless national bird, the kiwi, whose round body is covered in a layer of brown plumage, and on the other because the New Zealand servicemen who fought in World War II were also commonly known as Kiwis. Thus the name could hardly have been better.

Since then the name kiwifruit has become widely established in the scientific, technical and commercial fields, except in a few countries such as France, where the fruit are called yangtao, or Italy where the scientific genus name Actinidia is used.

A unified approach

With this new and attractive name, the kiwifruit grew in popularity overseas. This led to a second wave of planting in New Zealand, and the kiwifruit industry grew steadily and profitably for the next three decades.

In 1987, however, a massive surge in production led to a glut which caused a crisis in the industry. But it also proved to be a turning point, for "to save the situation, the New Zealand government stepped in and set up the New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board (NZKMB). This replaced the former system of multiple exporters, and introduced a unified approach to the business, with global coordination covering every stage from improved cultivar selection to production, packing, cool storage, transport, shipping, overseas distribution, marketing and promotion," says NZKMB new project manager Stuart Abbott.

For instance, in the area of cultivar research alone, the New Zealand government invests NZ$14 million a year. The work of the Te Puke Research Centre of Hort- Research (The Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand) is mainly devoted to the kiwifruit.

On the basis of consumer preferences, the center attempts to breed and select varieties with the most ideal flesh color, sweetness, firmness and other characteristics. "Consumers don't like a pale color, so the flesh should be as green as possible. On the other hand firmness is helpful for storage and shipment overseas. At the degree of firmness at which we harvest today, the fruit can be stored for as long as nine months," says HortResearch scientist Russell Lowe.

With such active state backing, New Zealand has maintained its leading position in the global kiwifruit industry despite strong competition from later entrants like France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Chile and the USA.

Particularly in East Asian markets, such as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, consumption of kiwifruit is growing rapidly. Last year people in Taiwan ate almost 10 million kilograms, of which more than two-thirds came from New Zealand.

They grow here too

For people in Taiwan to be eating so many imported kiwifruit seems a bit odd, for located as it is adjacent to the Chinese mainland, Taiwan has seven or eight edible wild Actinidia species of its own.

In the 1970s, Taiwan Nongcun (Taiwan Village) magazine published an article by the late Professor Chen Ke-chung of National Taiwan University's Department of Horticulture, entitled "The Discovery and Initial Cultivation of, and Research into, a New Fruit-the Mihoutao."

Chen Ke-chung was a native of Hunan, where he had seen and eaten mihoutao, which were known locally as tengli ("vine pears"). In 1974, on a visit to NTU's Highland Experimental Farm at Meifeng in Nan-tou County, looking up one day while out in the forest he was surprised to see cane after cane of mihoutao hanging from the trees. He was overjoyed, and after discussions with the then farm director Kang You-te and Department of Horticulture chairman Ma Su-hsuan, he decided to begin researching how to propagate the plants.

"It emerged that although mihoutao is very well known in China as a wild fruit, and has attracted much attention in the West, in its land of origin, even today it is left to grow wild, and is not cultivated anywhere. This really is a discredit to a country with an ancient reputation for highly developed horticultural skills," wrote Chen in his article.

However, patriotic sentiment takes second place to commercial considerations. The NTU researchers successfully developed shoot tip culture and stem cutting propagation methods for Actinidia, but the dominant position which New Zealand had already established for itself was seen as leaving no opportunity for Taiwan to enter the market, so the idea of developing the kiwifruit as a commercial crop was abandoned. NTU has merely continued with variety collection and research. Today the Highland Experimental Farm has a plot of specimen plants covering some 300 to 500 square meters, planted with wild Actinidia species from Taiwan and mainland China.

Professor Ni Cheng-chu of the horticulture department at National Chung-Hsing University has carried out cultivar selection work, but again this has not led to commercial growing. "At Taiwan's latitudes, kiwi-fruit can only be cultivated in mountain areas between 1500 and 2000 meters above sea level. But farming in the high mountains is a major cause of soil erosion, so we are simply doing academic research-we can't recommend large-scale cultivation," says Professor Ni.

However, in the north of Taiwan, ten and five years ago respectively the Hsueh-Pa Farm below Mt. Tapachien, and farms along the Northern Cross-Island Highway around Middle and Upper Pa-ling, imported young kiwifruit plants from New Zealand. "Kiwi-fruit grown in Taiwan don't have to be picked early the way they do in New Zealand to allow for their time in transit, so in terms of quality ours are even sweeter and have a better flavor. But in Taiwan we have climatic factors such as typhoons and the plum rains to contend with, and these make crop yields very erratic. This means you can't make kiwifruit a farm's main crop," says Fan Tseng-ta of Hsueh-Pa Farm.

North-South cooperation

But what of mainland China, the real homeland of the mihoutao? Having woken up to the fact that what had been considered a very ordinary wild fruit actually has an export earnings potential far beyond what anyone could have imagined years ago, in recent years the mainland has started making strenuous efforts to make up lost ground by setting up research establishments and commencing commercial cultivation.

"The mainlanders see the mihoutao as representing China, and have set up fruit research institutes in several provinces. They have great plans for the 'Chinese mihou-tao,'" says Associate Professor Chen Chung of NTU's Department of Horticulture. He recounts that although mainland researchers have selected a number of cultivars for development, when visitors from abroad go to visit, they can eat the fruit, but they can't take any seeds away with them: "They're very sensitive about it."

But to breed improved kiwifruit varieties, it is essential to collect wild seed from the mihoutao's native regions. To this end, New Zealand and mainland China have jointly established a kiwifruit research center in Si-chuan Province to collect superior varieties as the basis for future breeding programs.

Aren't the New Zealanders afraid that by working with mainland China they are creating another future competitor for themselves? Russell Lowe is optimistic: "China is in the northern hemisphere and New Zealand is in the southern. Our fruiting seasons are six months apart, so in fact they complement each other. Also, China's population is so vast that they can eat all they produce."

The Te Puke Research Centre hopes one day to be able to breed kiwifruits in different colors, to give consumers more choice. "I'm worried that consumers will get tired of always eating the same kind of kiwifruit. We need more varieties-just like apples which come in red and green," says Lowe. The center is currently developing a small variety which doesn't need peeling, so that mothers can "pop one into their children's lunch box."

Bird against monkey

Although mainland China has the advantage of numerous wild varieties, which give it the potential to develop superior cultivars with a variety of fine flavors, it lacks experience in commercialization, and has much to learn if it wishes to break into the international market. The quickest way forward would be to work with New Zealand to introduce expertise and technology in this area.

But although both sides are willing, thus far they have not been able to upgrade their level of cooperation. "Among our best varieties we have a red-centered mihoutao with a flavor almost like honey," says Wang Ming-zhong. "The New Zealanders would love to get hold of this variety." But, as he explains with regret, currently the mainland's germ-plasm resources are subject to secrecy regulations. "They could steal it, but they can't buy it"-so for the time being such varieties cannot emerge onto the international stage.

However, no-one knows how policies may change in future. If at some time the mainland authorities relax such restrictions, then all kinds of new varieties may appear on supermarket shelves.

When that happens, will they be called "kiwifruit" or "mihoutao"? It looks as if there may still be a struggle to come between the "bird" and the "monkey."

p.117

Don't these kiwifruits hanging on the vine look just like playful little macaques swinging from the branches with outstretched arms?

(left) Beside the towering hedge is a well-ordered kiwifruit orchard. Because the harvest is just over, it looks as if nothing is left of the kiwifruit vines but dry branches. But in fact they are still full of life, as they wait under the warm winter sun to throw out new shoots in the next season.

p.118

Zhiwu Ming Shi Tukao Changbian, by Wu Qijun (1789-1847) of the Qing dynasty, contains a detailed drawing of a mihoutao plant.

p.119

"A plate of yang-taw fruits," photographed by plant collector Ernest Wilson on 4 November 1908, in Sichuan Province. (courtesy of New Zealand Society for Horticultural Science)

p.120

When missionary teacher Miss Isabel Fraser returned home to New Zealand from China, she took with her some mihoutao seeds which laid the foundation of today's kiwifruit industry in New Zealand. (courtesy of New Zealand Society for Horticultural Science)

p.121

Just look at the lovable kiwi-are you sure it and the kiwifruit aren't related? (courtesy of New Zealand Tourism Office)

The first commercial shipment of kiwifruit to Britain in 1953 still went by the name of "Chinese gooseberries."

(courtesy of New Zealand Society for Horticultural Science)

p.122

Kiwifruits, complete with stickers, ready to be graded and packed.

This old kiwifruit grading mach-ine is now a museum piece. It works by tossing fruits into the air one by one: the lighter ones fly a little further than the heavier ones, separating the different sizes.

p.123

At cool-store temperatures of 0_C_ kiwifruit stay fresh for six months. This means that they can be supplied to the market gradually, keeping prices stable.

p.124

In New Zealand, kiwifruit vines are very often trained over "T-bars."

At HortResearch's Te Puke Research Centre, scientists are studying all kinds of new kiwifruit varieties, to give consumers a wider range of choice.

p.125

In the mountains near Taiwan's Northern Cross-Island Highway, some farms have begun to grow kiwifruit. However, they are not local wild varieties, but cultivars introduced from far-off New Zealand. (photo by Vincent Chang)

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