Hardy Kiwi

comments (7) September 25th, 2008

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Ruth Ruth Dobsevage, Web producer
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This cluster of Northern kiwi fruit is ripening on the vine.
Male kiwi flowers.
If not pruned diligently, kiwi turns into a tangled mess of twining shoots. This plant is supported on posts designed for chain-link fence.
This kiwi is in need of pruning. During the growing season, this incredibly vigorous plant benefits from a twice-monthly trim. For female plants, such as this one, take care to cut only the wildly growing stems, not the ones bearing flowers and fruit.
This cluster of Northern kiwi fruit is ripening on the vine.Click To Enlarge

This cluster of Northern kiwi fruit is ripening on the vine.

Photo: Ruth Dobsevage

The kiwi (née Chinese gooseberry and renamed by marketers in the 1970s) is a  tasty, citrusy flavored fruit fairly bursting with Vitamin C and other nutrients. What’s not to like?

Well, it turns out that the commonly available kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa) isn’t cold hardy and we can’t grow it in Connecticut, but we can grow its little cousin, Northern kiwi, and that’s what I set out to do. And that's where the saga begins. I purchased a vine that was described as self fruitful, and waited at least 8 years for it to flower. It finally did, but there was no fruit. The following year, same thing. Useless male, I concluded. Big sigh, and back to the drawing board.

I then invested in two plants of a different type of Actinidia arguta, a male (just to be sure) and a female. Last year (its third year), the female flowered, along with the old male, and—miracle of miracles—fruit appeared that fall. It was small, but delicious. This year, the female and the new male flowered (the old male, a bit farther up the hill from the newer plants, got hit by one of our trademark late frosts), and a larger crop has formed.

Hardy kiwis are roughly the size and shape of grape tomatoes, and they form in clusters. Unlike full-sized kiwis, their skin isn’t fuzzy and it doesn’t have to be peeled. I haven’t had enough of a crop yet to look into recipes, so we just eat them out of hand.

Northern kiwis are vines, and they grow aggressively (especially the males). A strong trellis is required. I cobbled together a trellis out of heavy wire, posts for a chain-link fence, with crosspieces made from recycled futon slats I happened to have around. Like many of my other structures, it is functional, if not a work of art.

Pruning is essential, too: initially, to train the plant up and along the trellis, and then throughout the growing season, or the the whole thing will become a tangled, heavy mess. Given the opportunity, Northern kiwis send out long arching shoots around that will twine around anything they touch: fences, neighboring plants, even themselves.. In the spirit of constant vigilance, I keep a pruners in my back pocket, and prune every week or two to keep the plants manageable. When pruning this this plant, you can throw caution to the winds.

Northern kiwis ripen at the very end of the growing season. Even if they are not yet ready to eat, it’s a good idea to pick your kiwis just before a hard frost. You can store them at room temperature or in the fridge, where they will ripen. Check your stash each day for soft fruit, a sign that it’s ready to eat.

 

 


posted in: fruit, kiwi, orchard

Comments (7)

Ruth writes: Witch0627, I feel your pain. My 2010 crop is still on the vine, but last year we had a huge harvest. I tried slicing and dehydrating, but the taste was insipid. My son made jam, and that worked out well. I'll ask him for the recipe and post it.
Posted: 10:05 am on October 11th
Witch0627 writes: I have a million northern kiwi berries and no recipe! Anyone made jam or jelly from these? I'd love to hear your recipe!
Posted: 10:50 am on October 3rd
joe_massie writes: Thank you. It seems as if everyone in Ct I speak to who has hardy kiwi purchased them from millers.
Posted: 6:44 pm on July 13th
Ruth writes: I'm not absolutely sure, but I think I ordered from Miller Nurseries. http://www.millernurseries.com/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=203. You could call the company and ask for particulars; the Web site doesn't state a variety.
Posted: 9:05 am on July 13th
joe_massie writes: I realize it is an Actindia arguta, but there seems to be many different types of that varity. All the hardy kiwis are listed under that name in many of my catalogs. I was wondering if you knew what type or where you purchased it.
Posted: 7:37 pm on July 12th
Ruth writes: Joe, I'm growing Actinidia arguta. You'll need a male and a female vine, as mentioned above. My female is now incredibly productive. I think I got close to two spaghetti pots full of fruit last year, and that's a LOT of Vitamin C!
Posted: 11:55 am on July 6th
joe_massie writes: What type of kiwi is this (Issia, kens red...? I also live in Ct and would like to grow hardy kiwi.
Posted: 2:34 pm on June 30th
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