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February Fruit of the Month: KIWI

February Fruit of the Month: Kiwis

We here at Rolling River have a high appreciation for the abundant kiwi fruit. Though often considered as an exotic treat from a far away land, these delicious fruits can be a real backbone of our fruit diet through the long winter months. When most of our gardens succulent fruits are either a dim memory, eaten out of a jar, or maybe imported from the southern hemisphere, the wonderfully healthy high vitamin C Kiwis just keep on ripening on our back porch. Kiwis can be eaten over an incredibly long season, November through May with the common “Fuzzy” types. The less well known, and more northerly adapted, Hardy Kiwis season runs from mid- September through January. Despite our heavy winter rains and several frosts I was even eating fruits I forgot to pick earlier right off the vine while taking cutting wood in January for propagation, and they were delicious!

The Fuzzy Kiwi is the kind found at grocery stores and is the best for long term storage and winter eating. They are extremely productive, often producing up to 200 pounds of fruit per vine! But don’t panic because these slow ripening fruits will give you plenty of time to enjoy them. They are best stored in a cool area, such as a back porch or pantry. Bring a box in to the house or a warmer area to ripen as you need, leaving the rest to stay hard out in the cool. Put a couple of boxes in the fridge when the weather starts to warm in spring and you can further prolong your eating pleasure. Doing this we enjoy Kiwis till the end of May, at which time the strawberries are ripening and the season begins again!

Kiwis are easy to grow pest free plants. They like a well drained soil with regular irrigation during the dry season, becoming more drought tolerant once they are established. The “fuzzy” types are adapted to USDA zones 7 thru 9, while the more cold resistant “hardy” varieties grow in zones 5 thru 9. The new shoots on both types are vulnerable to late frosts, so it is good to cover them when small if a hard late freeze threatens.  All Kiwis are vigorous vines that need a strong trellis or fence to grow on. Kiwis are especially attractive for covering an arbor, with their luxuriant foliage, beautiful fragrant flowers, and long hanging fruit.

All kiwi varieties produce delicious fruit, but for areas with short growing seasons, or cool foggy conditions it makes sense to pick earlier ripening varieties such as Saanichton and Blake to achieve full sweetness. Amongst the Hardy types MSU and Fortyniner (74/49) ripen about 10 days before the rest. Ken’s Red, Cordifolia and Elmwood are known for their low chill adaptation for those in warm winter areas. Those vine-ripened fruits are so good, I would grow them in an unheated greenhouse if I lived north of their comfort range. After all, what other fresh sweet, juicy fruit can you eat all through the winter?



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