Sunday, 25 October 2009

Hardy Kiwi in the garden

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Not one for planting much in the way of exotic fruits, when Hardy Kiwi's became available about 20 years ago, I dove in head first. I loved the taste of the fuzzy kiwi, but the crop was hit or miss in my climate, the tender plants preferring the warmer temperatures of California. However, the Hardy Kiwi plants can withstand winter time temperatures down to -25F.

I moved mine several times, never really giving them a chance to excel. They have been in their final spot for 7 years now. I originally had two females, and one male, but one female has died, so now I have just the couple. It is recommended that the male plant is needed for pollination, but my male and female never bloom at the same time, and there is always a heavy fruit set. the variety I planted was Anna and I purchased the vines at One Green World in Oregon. Our organic inspector was a kiwi hobbyist and she experienced the same thing, that Anna (also sometimes known by her full name Annanasnaja) would put on copious crops without pollination. It is recommended however, to buy a male and female. Another great nursery with many unusual edible fruits in Raintree Nursery. And if you're so inclined the hardy kiwi propagates easily from cuttings taken during late winter. So if you have a friend that has a kiwi you have been coveting, ask for some cuttings and you will be in business!

Usually when you think of kiwis, food comes to mind. But, I think this plant is under-rated as an edible ornamental, it can be very useful in permaculture type applications. The plant's rapid growth would very helpful in shading a porch, the dark green heart shaped leaves are beautiful in their own right, and the fragrance when the vines bloom is delightful. The pollinators love it too, the vine is always abuzz with bees and hummingbirds. When fall arrives the leaves provide ample color on gray days, and in our land of conifers, any fall color is appreciated.

The plants are pest free in North America, lending themselves to organic gardening, and are relatively low maintenance. After they are established, all they need is a application of compost each year and minimal irrigation. And they also thrive under neglect. I only apply stable manure once a year to mine, never water them, and proper pruning for heavier crops has escaped me. I can't imagine having a heavier crop, actually. They are very prolific!

But back to the food aspect, who can resist these smooth skinned beauties that you can just pop in your mouth? High in Vitamin C, with flavor like a blend of strawberries and pineapple they make a great addition to the fall fruit diet. Great in smoothies, made into jam, or ... . The possibilities are only limited to your imagination.

Since they are an unusual fruit and expensive to buy if you can find them, I make kiwi jam for Christmas gifts. It is always a pleasant surprise in a gift basket, and very tasty.

To make the jam, just remove the blossom end and stem.

Chop kiwi. If you're using the hardy kiwi you can just cut in half. If you have fuzzy kiwi, peel and chop and dice. Or if you are like me, or have small children, after measuring you can just squeeze them with your hands like you're making wine. I made two large batches of jam yesterday and by the time I was into the second batch, I was cooking dinner at the same time and didn't have time to cut all those kiwis, or to take pictures of the smooshed ones! And the usual warning applies - make sure the kiddos have washed their hands thoroughly before the smooshing fun begins.

After a brisk cooking, the jam is ready to ladle into jars.

Water bath for 10 minutes.

Summer goodness put away for winter enjoyment.

Kiwi jam cooling. The rings will be removed, jars washed and labeled before putting in the Christmas cabinet for gifts or just for stocking our pantry.

KIWI JAM from the Ball Blue Book of Preserves
Yield: about 4 half-pints

3 cups chopped and *peeled kiwi
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 package of powdered pectin
4 cups of sugar

Combine kiwi, powdered pectin and pineapple juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Adjust two piece caps. Process 10 minutes boiling water bath.

*Peel only if using fuzzy kiwi, and the easiest way to do that is to actually cut the kiwi in half and just scoop out the flesh instead of peeling. Hardy kiwis have tender skin so no need to peel.

Most jam recipes are too sweet for us, and don't let the flavor of the fruit shine. So I cut the sugar quite a bit in my batches. The result is a softer jam, or spread, but the trade off is well worth it. We just have our biscuits on a plate and if no one is looking we lick the plate if a little jam escapes!

My changes:

6 cups of chopped kiwi
2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
2 packages powdered pectin
2 cups sugar

These changes are mine and since this is a high acid product it is perfectly safe for canning. Low sugar pectin or Pomona's Pectin are good choices too. But I had the powdered pectin on hand and wanted to use it up.
I almost forgot. There is one more use for kiwis in the home orchard :)

Proper pruning would alleviate this "problem" if you so desire.


Could hardy kiwi be in your future?