Boris Johnson mulls over origins of kiwifruit with young children

The British Prime Minister was perplexed.
The British Prime Minister was perplexed. Photo credit: Getty.

The British Prime Minister has been pondering the origins of the humble kiwifruit.

Boris Johnson visited the Monkey Puzzle Nursery in west London on Friday (NZ time) and sat down with some young children to paint a pair of bananas. 

While expressing his artistic skills, the Prime Minister was presented with a kiwifruit by a child, who asked him what it was. 

"That is called a kiwifruit," Johnson said to the boy.

The child and his friends then returned to their paintings, but the Prime Minister mulled over the fruit's origins.

"When I was your age they didn't exist. Were they discovered, or were they invented, kiwis? Did they breed kiwifruits?" Johnson asked, looking at the children for a moment as if they would provide him an answer. 

He then appears to ask the question to adults standing around the painting table. 

Boris Johnson and bananas.
Boris Johnson and bananas. Photo credit: Getty.

While kiwifruit have become favourites in New Zealand and their name reflects the country's national bird, they are not native to Aotearoa.

According to the New Zealand History website, the fruit's seeds were brought to New Zealand from China in 1904 by Mary Isabel Fraser, the principal of Whanganui Girls' College who had returned from visiting schools in the Asian nation.

The seeds were planted in 1906 and the vines first fruited in 1910. Due to the gooseberry flavour, people began to call the fruit the Chinese gooseberry. 

When the fruit began being exported to the United States in the 1950s, the Cold War was well underway and NZ History says the term 'Chinese gooseberry' was a "marketing nightmare" for produce company Turners and Growers. 

The name 'kiwifruit' was suggested by Jack Turner in 1959 and it has since become the industry name. 

China continues to be the leading producer of the fruit, followed by Italy, New Zealand, Iran and Chile, according to NZ History.