|The grapelike fruit of the hardy kiwi Actinidia arguta ‘Ananasnaya’ at UBC Botanical Garden, Vancouver|
If you aren’t a fan of the fuzzy skin on kiwifruit, you’re in luck. Not only are there smooth-skinned species, but they’re hardy in our climate. The one above was photographed in B.C. However, Actinidia arguta is available from at least two Ontario nurseries, and is showing up more frequently on Ontario 100-mile menus.
A. arguta doesn’t grow as large as the commercial varieties appropriately named Actinidia deliciosa. They’re more the size of large grapes or gooseberries. I’m told, though, that they are quite tasty. There are a number of cultivars in addition to ‘Ananasnaya’ which gets its name from its pineappley flavour.
|The developing fruit of Actinidia deliciosa; the kind you see in supermarkets|
In fact, the decorative kiwi vine A. kolomitka ‘Arctic Beauty’ – usually grown for its unusual pink and white foliage variegation – will make fruit that’s edible, if you have both male and female plants. Both are required for pollination. Only one kiwifruit is self-pollinating, A. arguta ‘Issai’. All the rest require at least one male of the species. If you had room – and you’d need it; the vines can grow to 40′ (12.2 m) – you could plant an absolute harem of females. Local commercial growers are becoming more common.
|The pretty flowers of A. deliciosa – which are showier than those of the hardy kiwifruit|
If you’re interested in trying these fruits for yourself, there’s a growing (no pun!) number of resources. Cornell University offers this fact sheet, including the enticing statement that a single mature kiwi vine can produce 50-100 lbs (22.7-45.4 kg) of fruit in a year. That’s quite the harvest! There’s also this excellent article on hardy kiwis by Nan Sterman, whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently in Seattle.
And for a little on the history of the kiwifruit, from New Zealand’s Zespri, the world’s largest producer of this fuzzy green – and yellow – fruit, check out this link.
|The food garden at UBC Botanical Garden in Vancouver, where these shots were taken|
[Ed: In response to some reader questions, I’ve asked a Toronto friend to chime in on her experience growing hardy kiwis in our Canadian Zone 6/USDA Zone 5 area. Here’s what Susan wrote:
I do have a kiwi vine–probably Actinidia arguta ‘Issai’–I bought it many years ago at Loblaws.
My experience is that it definitely is a twiner and a spreader–it grows on an arbour in my yard–and I usually need to cut it back at least 2 or 3 times each growing season. Its branches seem to grow quite rapidly entangling themselves (if I’m not vigilant or too lazy at the time) onto the birch branches. So it’s certainly easy to grow.
I’ve had fruit most years (although not so much last season, 2015)–tiny grape-size fruits that don’t need to be peeled when eaten–they usually ripen in the early fall (September). Keeping the long whip-like branches cut back probably helps with fruit production as long as they’re not cut back too much.
Personally, I do like the plant–nice glossy foliage, reddish stems–will easily cover an arbour or strong trellis–an easy-peasy plant–as long as you keep it in check when needed or desired.
Has never suckered for me–but my wisteria?!!! It has even suckered all the way under our fairly large deck–amazing.
Thanks, Susan! Hope that helps our readers. Helen, 19/03/2016]