New Zealand is made up of two main islands: North Island and South Island. The food culture here has its roots in Polynesia and Britain, with an emphasis on native fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat. Fruits and vegetables that grow in New Zealand such as the kiwifruit, potatoes and tamarillo are major exports and help shape the identity of the country.
Kiwifruit, otherwise known as kiwi, is a large edible oval berry, about the size of an egg, that comes from a woody vine. It has a darker skin that peels back to reveal soft, bright green fruit with lots of small black seeds. New Zealand and northeast Asia are the regions where the kiwifruit is a huge commercial crop. Since 1924, the kiwi has been a major part of New Zealanders' lives. Kiwi is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A and lots of antioxidants.
This juicy fruit was first introduced to New Zealand by Asia in the late 1800s, and is a relative of the potato, eggplant, pepper and tomato plant. Also called the "tree tomato," the tamarillo dates back to the Incas as a staple diet food. In New Zealand, this is a common fruit to eat as a snack, like an apple or pear. March to October is when the tamarillo is ready for harvest, in varieties of red, amber or gold with a firm, smooth skin and bright golden flesh inside.
Since around 1830, olives have been a part of food production in New Zealand. Over one million olive trees flourish in groves on the islands, mostly for extra virgin olive oil to use regionally and for export. New Zealand is known for very high-quality olive oils that consistently win gold medals at both national and international competitions for the produce. Olives are eaten whole or incorporated into cooking.
Potatoes have been a staple of many cultures for hundreds of years, and New Zealand is no different. Often called spuds, potatoes came to the islands from the British and have been a staple grown in New Zealand since around 1880. Over 50 percent of New Zealanders eat potatoes more than four times a week. The two islands offer 10 to 12 potato varieties, each having different flavors and shapes. Besides these 10 to 12 varieties, some other ones exist that are only native to New Zealand and are only grown and eaten here, such as the Karaka variety.
New Zealand is a premier producer of high-quality apples, particularly Royal Galas, Granny Smiths, New Zealand series, Fujis and Braeburns. Apple trees were first introduced to the islands in 1819, and they are considered a staple to the native diet and are a major export.
New Zealand has an array of squash varieties, due in large part to the different regional temperatures, soil conditions and fertilizers. The main types of squash are Butternut, Buttercup (both sweet and soft texture), Crown and Grey (rich flavor and hard texture), Spaghetti squash, and Kumi Kumi (nutty and small size)—as exports and grown in home gardens as well.
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