Kiwi Fruit

The Kiwi Fruit, otherwise know as Chinese Gooseberry (Actinidia Sinensis) , shown below with fruit fully formed but not yet ripe, is a vigorous vine which could be much more widely grown & used. It is deciduous & attractive, making an ideal cover for pergolas (illustration) where summer shade & winter sun are required.

Both male & female vines are required for fruit to set, but if space is an issue, a male vine can be budded onto a female, & provide good pollination for several female fruit-bearing vines. Keep an eye on it's more vigorous growth, & don't let it 'take over'.

Actinidias are surface rooters, like citrus & avocados, so they need good well-drained soil, plenty of mulch to conserve moisture & suppress weeds, (but keep it away from the trunk, or it may cause it to rot) & as little disturbance to the roots as possible once planted. They heartily dislike hot dry winds, & like avocados, will suffer leaf burn if not protected from them. They can withstand a few degrees of frost, as long as the soil does not freeze.Kiwi fruit matures in winter - rich in vitamin C Given these conditions, they will grow vigorously & bear heavily once established. Prune as for table grapes, leaving 10 - 12 buds per cane. Though they will self-prune & still bear for a few years if neglected, the fruit will be small, & eventually leaves will be produced at the expense of flowers & fruit. I have had excellent results pruning every other year.

Kiwi Fruit contain 10 times the amount of vitamin C of lemons, as well as a wide range of minerals, while the seeds contain essential fatty acids, & should be well-chewed, not discarded.

They mature in winter, & begin to ripen when picked. If unbruised, the fruit can be laid in a single layer on trays in a cool place, where they will keep for many weeks without special treatment. They can also be left on the vine until soft in frost-free areas, but tend to lose flavour.

To eat, rub the bristles from the thin edible skin, & enjoy! A good Kiwi Fruit has the pleasant sharpness of a Granny Smith apple, with soft juicy flesh & a crisp edible core - very different from the fruit you buy in the supermarket. A very few people find the juice makes their lips & tongue sore when eaten at this stage, but the fruit gets sweeter & mushier, & loses vitamin content as it gets riper. If sore lips are a problem, blanch sliced fruit to preserve the vitamin content, then poach in a light syrup.

Mature vines can be so prolific that you are forced to preserve some of the crop. It makes excellent jams, jellies, & chutney. Kiwi fruit also dries well.

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