Hardy Kiwi (cont)
By: Nan Sterman
Most hardy kiwis take about three years to bear fruit, though 'Arctic Beauty' and 'Issai' often bear the first year after planting. Depending upon your region, most 'Arctic Beauty' fruits ripen in early to mid-August, while fruits of the others ripen from late August through mid-October. Fruits are picked hard-ripe, then allowed to soften off the vine, like avocado and fuzzy kiwi.
Starting in late August, pick a few fruits and let them ripen on a windowsill or in a paper bag. Taste them when the flesh is soft and the seeds are black. If they don't ripen, wait several weeks and then test a few more fruits. When you notice the first fruit softening on the vine, pick all the fruit. Store hard-ripe fruit in airtight plastic containers or sealed bags in the refrigerator. Take out a few at a time to ripen. Eventually, all of the fruit on the vine will soften, but if you wait that long, you will have an overwhelming harvest of fruits that will last only a short time. Regardless of when you start to harvest, be sure to pick all the fruits before the first frost.
In Russia, hardy kiwis are made into jam, but they're also delicious simply sliced in half and drizzled with fresh cream.
Hardy Kiwis for Home Gardeners
Actinidia arguta -- Zones 5 through 10. Mature plants produce up to 100 pounds of fruit per season. Pest- and disease-free.
'Anna' -- Zones 5 through 10. In Russia, this variety is called 'Ananasnaya', meaning "pineapple-like." It is vigorous, productive, and promising commercially. Very ornamental with red leaf stems. One of the best-tasting ("addictive") and sweetest of the hardy kiwis.
'Dumbarton Oaks' -- Zones 5 through 8. Excellent flavor and early ripening.
'Issai' -- Zones 6 through 10. Only self-fertile variety (a male pollenizing plant is not needed). Fruits the first year after planting. Medium-sized green fruit. Susceptible to spider mites in hot, dry climates.
A. cordifolia -- Zones 5 through 10. Perhaps the sweetest of all and the first to ripen. It has been less successful in the Pacific Northwest.
A. kolomikta 'Arctic Beauty' -- Zones 3 through 8. Best suited to short-season and cold-winter areas. Compared to A. arguta, plants are smaller and more delicate; fruits are smaller and ripen earlier. Fruits first year after planting. Plant where it receives partial to full shade. Leaves of male plants start the season deep green, then paint themselves with splashes of white and pink.
A. purpurea 'Hardy Red' -- Zones 5 through 10. Vigorous vine; oblong red fruit is sweet with a bit of tartness.
Nan Sterman is a gardener and writer who lives in Olivenhain, California.