Hardy Kiwis - Deeper Analysis!
Hardy Kiwis (Actinidia arguta)
These fruits are important to me - they were one of the reasons I wanted to start this nursery. Before I started ordering these in, I couldn’t find anywhere in Canada that had hardy kiwis, despite their being hardy enough to grow here.
These are relatives of grocery store kiwis, and originate originally from China. Interesting fact - Kiwi Fruit originally had the common name Chinese Gooseberry, until some marketing genius discovered that they grew very well as an orchard vine in New Zealand, and re-christened them Kiwi Fruit. Hard to believe any other fruit could so recently break into that international pantheon that includes apples, bananas, and oranges, but kiwi basically did it. (Interesting side note, it was only in the late 19th century that Bananas broke into that pantheon in North America. That's a really interesting story - if you're interested - there's a great book by Dan Koeppel called Banana about the strange history, dire situation in the present, and potential future of the banana that I read recently, and highly recommend.)
The larger grocery store kiwi fruit are not quite able to withstand winter in Ontario, but hardy kiwi, arctic beauty, and silvervine kiwi are. Their fruit are grape size, and they grow on a vine very similar to grapes. I can attest that the taste is excellent, a bit less acid than the grocery store ones, and since they are not fuzzy, you can eat the whole thing, skin and all.
The culture of growing hardy kiwis is also like grapes. They are an excellent choice to cover a trellis or pergola, and also do well trained along wires, as most vineyards do. A sturdy fence is also a good option, though sturdy is the key word. Another intriguing option is to plant them at the base of a tree, and let them grow up. Some suggest planting them at the base of a tree you’ve just coppiced, and they can grow up at the same rate that the tree grows back. One thing to keep in mind is how you will harvest them if they are up a tree. If you are not fond of climbing trees or reaching from high up on a ladder, maybe go the trellis or wire direction.
A word of caution: after the initial couple of years of establishment, hardy kiwis can go wild, especially if they are well-sited with good sunlight, soil and water. They can grow as much as 250’ of vine in one year. They adapt well to heavy annual pruning, like grapes. This concentrates the plant into a smaller area, and lets them put more energy into larger clusters of fruit.
Hardy kiwis are one of those plants that has distinct male and female plants. The females are the ones that bare fruit - and there are therefore lots of different varieties. The males are required for pollination - as with many other plants, insects such as bees are crucial to performing pollination, which leads to lots of fruit set. Unless you are growing one of the rare varieties (such as Issai) that has both male and female blossoms, you will need one male plant to pollinate up to 8 female plants. By the way - a note on Issai, I found it wasn’t hardy for me. Not to say you couldn’t grow it in a more sheltered area in Ontario, but I wasn’t happy with it when I tried it.
A third species of kiwi, Silvervine Kiwi (Actinidia polygama), has fruits that taste like hot peppers. There are actually dozens more wild species, but it seems only about 4 have been domesticated regularly.
If you get your fill of fresh hardy kiwi (I’m not kidding when I say mature vines can yield 50 to 100lbs of fruit - seriously! Look it up!), there are lots of ways to preserve it, from dehydrating, to canned preserves. Juice? Fruit leather? The sky’s the limit. And by the way, while you’re eating that 100lbs of fruit, you’re also boosting your Vitamin C levels enormously. Hardy kiwis have 5 times as much Vitamin C as black currants, which are often cited as having the highest vitamin of any commercially sold fruit (4x as much as oranges - which would mean that hardy kiwis have 20 times as much Vitamin C as oranges - which is kind of staggering!)
Bonus - once your vines are established, they can also be tapped for sap. I can’t wait until I have some large enough, so I can try making syrup out of it...
So that’s it. As a reminder, the regular price for these is $25 each, and with the sale, you pay $30 for two. It’s a great deal, and although we have a bit of extra stock, I don’t think it will last very long with these prices.
Enter the coupon code: kiwi at checkout to get the discount.
If you have questions or want to talk to me about your nut tree/forest garden/permaculture project for advice, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m not going to up-sell you or try to sell you trees if I don’t think your project is ready - usually the best way to start a project is with a lot of observation.
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