This is a fascinating article which points how Kiwis were actually Chinese gooseberries which somehow came to NZ. Then one of the firms renamed it to Kiwi fruit as its shape resembled the Kiwi bird of NZ. Then it just took off:
Historical consensus — as presented on New Zealand’s official history website — suggests that the first seeds arrived on New Zealand at the turn of the 20th century.
It all began in 1904, when Mary Isabel Fraser, the principal of an all-girls school, brought back some Chinese gooseberry seeds from China. They were then given to a farmer named Alexander Allison who, planted them in his farm near the riverine town of Whanganui. The trees went on to bear their first fruit in 1910.
New Zealand’s appropriation of the Chinese gooseberry wasn’t inevitable. Around the same time the first seeds were introduced to New Zealand, the species was in fact also experimented with as a commercial crop both in the U.K. and the U.S., wrote New Zealand plant physiologist Ross Ferguson, one of the world’s top kiwifruit researchers, for Arnoldia, the magazine of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum.
But, as luck would have it, neither the British nor the American attempt at commercializing the fruit was as fruitful. For example, the first batch of seeds brought to Britain’s Veitch Nursery all produced male plants, thwarting the growers’ plans to produce edible fruit. The same fate befell the U.S. government’s attempt. “It seems ironic that the sending of seed by a missionary to an amateur gardener should eventually lead to a new horticultural industry, when the efforts of the Veitch Nursery and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were so much less successful,” Ferguson remarked in his 1983 essay.
The gooseberry’s rebranding didn’t happen until almost 50 years after Allison’s trees bore fruit, according to New Zealand’s official history, when agricultural exporter Turners & Growers started calling their U.S.-bound Chinese gooseberries “kiwifruits” on June 15, 1959.
The fruit’s importer told Turners & Growers that the Chinese gooseberry needed a new name to be commercially viable stateside, to avoid negative connotations of “gooseberries,” which weren’t particularly popular. After passing over another proposed name, melonette, it was finally decided to name the furry, brown fruit after New Zealand’s furry, brown, flightless national bird. It also helped that Kiwis had become the colloquial term for New Zealanders by the time.
Demand for the fruit started to take off, and by the 1970s, the name kiwifruit took root across the Chinese gooseberry trade, cementing its popular imagination as the quintessential New Zealand product. All this happened while China was busy tearing its own social fabric to pieces, during the decade of terror that was the Cultural Revolution.
“I think it was a matter of luck and suitable climate” that the fruit thrived in New Zealand, Ferguson tells TIME. Now an honorary fellow at the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research, he helped classify the Actinidia deliciosa — the furry, green kiwifruit — as a separate species in the 1980s.
In a twist of irony, Chinese are both the largest producers of Kiwifruit and also think the fruit as foreign..
This is amazing. To see kiwi originate in china is quite similar when people in India are told that potatoes came from Portugal.