Kiwifruit or Chinese gooseberry is the edible berry of several species of woody vines in the genus Actinidia. The Botanical name of kiwi is Actinidia deliciosa. It has a thin, fuzzy, fibrous, tart but edible light brown skin and light green or golden flesh with rows of tiny, black, edible seeds. The fruit has a soft texture with a sweet and unique flavour.
The plant is native to mainland China and Taiwan and is also grown commercially in New Zealand and California. The fruit has a slightly acid taste and can be eaten raw or cooked. The juice is sometimes used as a meat tenderizer. Raw kiwis are high in vitamins C and K.
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Varieties of Kiwi
Hardy Kiwi (Kiwiberries)
A. arguta ‘Ananasnaya’ (also called ‘Anna’) has jade-colored skin, bright green flesh, black seeds and tastes like pineapple.
A. arguta ‘Issai’ is self-fertile (does not require a male pollinator) and produces small, juicy fruit. Pollinators love the fragrant white flowers in early summer.
A. arguta ‘Geneva’ ripens earlier than either ‘Anna’ or ‘Issai’ and has sweet, honey-flavored fruit.
A. arguta ‘Ken’s Red’ has fruit with reddish-purple skins. The flesh inside is dark green with deep-red streaks.
A. kolomikta ‘Red Beauty’ fruit ripens earlier than most hardy kiwi species, but A. kolomikta can be more temperamental in general. Fruit is skinny and sweet. Foliage turns a brilliant red in the fall.
‘Hayward’ is the main female variety of A. deliciosa grown commercially. It produces the fuzzy brown fruit with green interiors that can be found in grocery stores.
Male varieties include ‘Chico’, ‘Matua’, and ‘Tamori’.
When to Plant Kiwi Vines
Plant kiwi plants in the spring after the threat of frost has passed.
Kiwis typically begin bearing fruit 3 to 5 years after planting.
Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site
Kiwi vines need a sunny spot to produce the best growth and fruit.
Plant in a protected area of the garden to avoid wind damage.
Plant the vines on the north side of the yard in colder regions to minimize the risk of freeze-thaw damage in early spring, when plants are especially susceptible.
Kiwi plants require well-drained soil, as they are prone to root rot if kept too wet.
Kiwi vines are slow growers and need sturdy supports. Erect a tall heavy-duty trellis system that can support the vines that can grow 15 feet wide and 20 feet long, and produce up to 100 pounds of fruit.
How to Plant Kiwi Vines
To get a good crop from kiwi, you’ll need to plant male and female plants. The females produce the fruit. The best ratio is said to be at least one male plant for every six female plants.
Plant the vines 10 to 15 feet apart.
When planting, you may need to trim the roots if too long.
Plant vines just deep enough to cover the roots well with soil.
Water well at the time of planting.
How to Grow Kiwi Vines
Unless it has been rainy, give the plants supplemental watering during the height of summer or during other dry periods.
Do not fertilize in the first year. After that, fertilize with a well-balanced fertilizer or soybean meal in the spring.
Start training the flexible vines up a support during the first year of planting.
Prune the lateral growth (if not flowering) 2 to 3 times during the growing season.
Kiwi plants flower and fruit on old wood.
Regularly remove water sprouts (vigorous shoots originating from older wood) and shoots from the trunk.
Prune female vines during the winter months, when the plant is dormant. Prune male vines in early summer after bloom.
In cold areas, the vines of hardy kiwi may die back to the ground each year. Remove the dead stems and mulch with leaves or straw.
Propagate Kiwi Vines
Kiwi can be propagated from seeds. Here’s how:
Remove the seeds from a mature kiwi and let the seeds dry for two days.
Place the seeds in a container with moist perlite and refrigerate at 40°F (4°C) for 2 months.
Plant the seeds 1/8 inch deep in moist sterile potting mix and cover the container with plastic wrap.
Place the container in a warm, bright spot and keep the soil moist.
When seedlings start growing, uncover the container.
When the plants have four true leaves, transplant them into individual pots.
When the plants are several inches tall, transplant them outdoors.
Kiwis can also be propagated from softwood cuttings (cuttings taken from new growth during the summer):
Cut a kiwi stem into six inch lengths and cut off any growing tip.
Put the cuttings into a glass with an inch of water.
In about 3 weeks, the cuttings will have tiny roots at the ends of the cuttings.
Plant the cuttings in pots or plant outdoors.
When to Harvest Kiwi Fruit
The fruit typically reaches maturity in September/October, which can make it susceptible to early fall frosts in some areas.
Harvest the fruit when they are soft to the touch and ready to be eaten.
Alternatively, if early fall frosts are a concern, harvest kiwi fruits when they are still firm but have black seeds. These fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. Remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften for a couple days before eating.
How to Store Kiwi Fruit
Store firm kiwi in the refrigerator or a cooler for up to six weeks.
Freeze firm whole hardy kiwis on a cookie sheet and then put them into plastic freezer bags.
Pests and Diseases
Kiwifruit vines are susceptible to a variety of common pests like spider mites and thrips, both of which can be easily controlled with horticultural oil. Another common issue for kiwifruit vines are pests that feed on the plant's fruit, mainly leafroller caterpillars and Japanese beetles.
Armillaria root rot
Symptoms - Vines may completely collapse; whit mycelial mats may be present under bark close to the soil line; cortical tissue has a dark discoloration and white mycelial strands are present; root-like rhizomorphs extend from roots into soil.
Comments - Disease emergence favored by continually damp soil.
Management - Ensure that land to be used for new kiwi plantings is completely cleared of roots which are greater than 1 inch in diameter; ensure kiwi vines are adequately irrigated but not overwatered.
Symptoms - Brown, sunken lesions on petals covering flower buds; yellow-orange discoloration of petals; small yellow spots may appear on leaves after periods of rain.
Comments - Bacteria enter plants through wounds.
Management - Control of the disease relies on the avoidance of injuries to the plant which allow bacteria to enter; there are currently no recommended chemical control strategies for the disease.
Symptoms - Wilting plants; blighting of canes; red, rust colored cankers on branches which may exude red colored discharge. Comments - Disease has a wide host range; bacteria overwinter on vines.
Management - Infected areas should be pruned by cutting 1 foot below the edge of the canker; disease severity can be reduced by protecting plants from freeze injuries over winter.
Symptoms - Reduced plant vigor; small leaves; poor growth; open canopy; reduced yield; galls may be too small to see. Comments - Bacteria enter the plant through wounds.
Management - Control of the disease relies on the avoidance of injury to kiwi vines; existing galls can be surgically removed.
Phytophthora root and crown rot
Symptoms - Reduced shoot growth; small, chlorotic leaves; vines may collapse suddenly or show a gradual decline in productivity over several seasons; red-brown discoloration of roots and root crowns which is visible when root is cut in two. Comments - Disease emergence favored by poorly drained soils and flood irrigation.
Management - Control of the disease is reliant on good water management and application of appropriate fungicides; kiwi should be planted in well-draining soils where water does not pool after rain or irrigation; plants should be allowed to dry out between irrigations.
Benefits of Kiwi
May promote healthy skin and hair: Kiwi fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin C, an important antioxidant that can naturally stimulate collagen synthesis. The high vitamin C content in kiwis can help keep your skin firm and youthful-looking and also promote strong strands.
May support immunity: Most people associate oranges with their high vitamin C content, but a serving of kiwi fruit (2 small kiwis) has even more vitamin C than a medium size orange. The body cannot make vitamin C, so it's very important to get enough of this nutrient through food to protect the body from harmful pathogens.
May promote good digestion: Kiwis are a good source of fiber which is important for preventing constipation and keeping the body regular. Green kiwifruit specifically contains a natural digestive enzyme known as actinidin that can break down protein and improve function at both the gastric and intestinal levels.
May support healthy weight loss: This low-calorie yet nutrient-dense snack is packed with filling fiber to help keep you satiated. Kiwis are also over 90% water which can help hydrate the body.
May slow aging and help prevent chronic diseases: As an antioxidant, the abundant vitamin C in kiwi fruit can help to fight free radicals in the body which not only supports healthy aging but can also prevent or even delay the development of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
May benefit moms and babies: During early development, folate is important to help support the healthy growth of a baby's brain and spine. Kiwis, especially the gold variety, are a good source of folate and make a delicious and nutritious snack option.
The fruit is used as a food and as a medicine.
Kiwi is used for asthma, constipation, high blood pressure, and other conditions.
kiwi is used as a meat tenderizer and an ingredient in some sports drinks.