5 years ago I planted 4 hardy kiwi plants: 1 male and three Anna females. The promises of fuzzless kiwi fruit the size of large grapes growing in Will Holler, Bloomington, IN, seemed like a dream. This year’s harvest has been that and some.
So far I have harvested approximately 16-17lbs, and that’s just scratching the surface! The fruit is amazing, sweet, and slightly less acidic than their tropical relatives. I ate easily more than a pint yesterday before my tongue started to ache (fuzzy kiwis do that to me after just a bite or two). Fruit averages 1 in and eclipses a quarter easily, with the largest fruit nearing the size of my thumb.
With all of this fruit pouring in, my next step is to discover what preservation methods will work best. Kiwi Jams are all over the internet, but I’ve got about 1 gallon whirring away in the dehydrator as I type and freezing for later juicing seems promising as well. I plan on updating this post later when I can confirm how these experiments go.
The key to the hardy kiwi’s low-acidic/high sugar content is actually the fact that they grow in temperate climates. Last week the mercury fell into the 30s, and we had 3-4 nights of heavy frost/light freezes. The cold temperatures catalyze the kiwi pulp into gooey goodness, almost like a jam wrapped in a thin skin.
The only question I have is why aren’t more people growing these? Backyard growers, could plant a male/female pair on an arbor or patio trellis just like a grape, granted the kiwis are much more vigorous and can grow up to 25ft/year. After seeing the yields, growing these for market is a no-brainer. What other fruit is available this time of year besides apples and pears? Kiwi has 5 times the vitamin C of oranges, as well as healthy doses of vitamin K, A, E, B6, potassium, antioxidants, and copper (food facts provided by Dr. Mercola’s website)–all of which fortify our bodies for the upcoming winter cold. And not to state the obvious, but these hardy kiwis can be grown locally across most of the US, reducing the need for importing the fuzzies from across the globe.
Growth and Development of the Hardy Kiwi Vines in Will Holler:
Year 1: Plant Cold Hardy Kiwis over Chicken Moat
Years 2 & 3: Watch them grow with some occasional pruning and training
Year 4: Increased need to pruning–kiwi vines trying to climb trees. First fruit amounting to around 1 quart
Year 5: Pruned the vines heavily just before bud-break in early Spring. This I believe greatly increased fruit set. First fruit harvested around October 18th, with the bulk ripening in the last two weeks of October after first frost & freeze.
Year 6: PLANT MORE KIWIS and experiment with different trellising methods to increase production while using less space