(Adapted from my book Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, now out of print but very soon available as online version. Stay tuned. Information is also available in my books Grow Fruit Naturally and Landscaping with Fruit, available from my website and the usual sources.)
I always know when my hardy kiwifruits are ripe because my dogs and ducks start grubbing around beneath the vines for drops. The fruits, for those unfamiliar with them, are similar to the fuzzy kiwifruits (Actinidia deliciosa) of our markets, only much better for a number of reasons.
Obviously, from the name, hardiness is one reason. Hardy kiwifruits will laugh off cold below even minus twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit, while market kiwis are injured below zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Another difference is in the fruit itself. Hardy kiwifruits are grape-size, with smooth, edible skins. Pop them into you mouth just as with grapes. Within the skin, hardy kiwifruits look …
My ducks told me that the hardy kiwifruits were ripe. No, they’re not trained to give a specialized “hardy kiwifruit ripe” quack. Instead, they’ve taken to hanging out beneath the vines to scoop up dropped fruits. No training needed for this.
Hardy kiwifruits trained for easy harvest
Those dropped fruits are one reason that these vines — Actinidia kolomikta — are not as popular for fruit as another species, Actinidia arguta. Ripening, and dropping, is fast in the heat of July. Arguta kiwis ripen in late summer and early fall, and possibly cling to the vines more reliably then because cooler weather slows ripening. Not that either of the fruits are well known. Both are cousins to the fuzzy kiwis (A. deliciosa), ubiquitous in supermarkets. Both hardy kiwis differ from the fuzzies in being cold-hardy (only to 0°F for the fuzzy as compared …
Anyone appalled at the apparent brutality with which I approached my grape and kiwi vines a few weeks ago, pruning shears, saw, and lopper in hand, would have been further shocked today. But no harm done. (The kiwis are “hardy kiwis,” that is, Actinidia arguta and A. kolomikta; fuzzy kiwis are not cold-hardy here.) Left to their own devices, grape or kiwi vines would, every year, grow larger and larger, eventually, if once coming upon something to climb, sending their fruits further and further out of reach. Or, if not out of reach, then increasingly tangled in a mass of stems. In the dank interior of that mass of stems, many a grape would have rotted rather than ripened. Most importantly, though, grape or kiwi berries on untended vines don’t taste that good. Self-shading cuts down flavor-producing photosynthesis. And the plants’ energies must be spread among too …
Last week I wrote that, what with the cold weather and low-hanging sun showing its face but briefly each day, there’s little for a gardener to do now. That proved not strictly true. Soon after I wrote those words, I received a holiday card from David Jackson and Holly Laubach of Kiwi Berry Organics, growers of what I can attest to are, as it said on the card, the “World’s Sweetest Kiwi.” Theirs are hardy kiwifruits, the small, cold-hardy cousins of the fuzzy kiwis you usually see in the market; with their smooth skins, you pop them into your mouth like grapes.
Most importantly, David and Holly’s card sported a photo, a snowy scene of their kiwi plants pruned to perfection, the fruiting canes all neatly arching over with their ends tied down to their supporting wires. To