Kiwis – more properly referred to as kiwifruit – are a cool-looking fruit that often sports a fuzzy exterior. They're rich in fiber, vitamins C and E, potassium and other nutrients, and they're a great addition to fruit salads, adding unique flavor and visual appeal. Of course, they're a lot better if they haven't gone bad. So, it's nice to know how to spot a rotten kiwi, as well as a ripe kiwi, and also how to select and store this fruit.
Identify Bad or Overripe Kiwi
The surest sign that a kiwifruit has past its prime is when it's too soft to the touch or mushy inside. A ripe kiwi is just slightly soft and pliable to the touch, but it continues to get ever squishier once it peaks. Another indication that a kiwi is in decline is the presence of an off-smelling odor, even before cutting into it; an as-of-yet unripe or ripe kiwi has no discernible smell. Bad kiwifruit may also have wrinkling skin, decaying spots or mold growth.
Select Good Kiwifruit
Kiwifruit continue to ripen after harvesting, so it's OK to buy them unripe, assuming you're not in a major rush to eat them. When they're not yet ripe, they are fairly hard and don't give much when you squeeze. If you eat them unripe, they have a firmer texture and a somewhat astringent or sour kiwi taste.
Ripe kiwi give just a little with a light squeeze. The skin should feel rough, and with most varieties, it should be hairy. Look for fruit with no visible nicks, cuts, cracks, soft spots, discolored areas, mold or other damage. A kiwi's size doesn't tell you anything about its sweetness or flavor.
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Storing Kiwi and Their Shelf Life
By fresh fruit standards, whole kiwis are pretty durable. Assuming you buy them not quite ripe or just ripened, they'll last at least several days on your kitchen counter at room temperature. However, their shelf life can be greatly extended – even to as much as four to six weeks – with refrigeration. If you have cut-up kiwi, refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to about five days.
If you have unripe kiwifuit and you're itching to chow down on them, store them out of the fridge at room temperature, as refrigeration slows their maturation. You can speed up the ripening process even more by placing unripe kiwis in a partially vented paper or plastic bag with a banana or apple; these other fruits give off ethylene gas as part of their own ripening process, which accelerates the ripening – and subsequent decay – of other produce.
Freezing Kiwi for Longer Storage
The texture and makeup of kiwifruit don't make them particularly good candidates for freezing. When you thaw them, their flesh will have a mushy texture and darker green coloring. But, if you're determined, it's perfectly safe to freeze kiwifruit indefinitely, though the sooner you eat it the better.
Slice the kiwis or scoop them with a melon baller first; don't freeze them whole. If you have a vacuum sealer, that's a good way to package them for freezing. Otherwise, store them in an airtight container or a freezer bag with the air pressed out. If you spread out the individual pieces on a baking tray before freezing, you can package them without ending up with one big mass of frozen kiwi.
How to Eat Kiwifruit
Some people approach kiwi with some uncertainty the first time around. It's hairy, after all. Believe it or not, while most people peel kiwifruit to eat it, kiwi skin is edible and full of fiber, folate, vitamin E, antioxidants and other nutrients.
But then again, it's hairy. That's off-putting to plenty of people, even triggering irritation to some people's mouths. A lot of the fruit's hair will come off if you scrape the skin with the edge of a spoon or scrub it with a vegetable brush, though.
Wash kiwi whether or not you're planning to eat the skin, because when you slice it, the knife easily transfers dirt and bacteria from the exterior to the flesh as it passes through. Use a quality vegetable peeler or a paring knife to carefully remove a kiwi's skin. Or, cut kiwis in half width-wise and scoop out the fruit with a spoon.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, lifestyle, and travel writer living in Orlando, Florida. He spent 10 years working front- and back-of-house in restaurants, adding professional experience to his love of eating and cooking. His stories on food and beverage topics have appeared in numerous print and web publications, including Visit Florida, Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and others.