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Courtesy Bjorn Appel
Smooth and colorful, hardy kiwis don’t closely resemble their fuzzy, grocery-store counterparts, and their taste is nothing short of phenomenal. Plus, their lack of fuzz means no peeling: The fruit can be plucked from the vine and eaten whole.
Hardy kiwis grow quickly, and female vines produce a plethora of 1- to 2-inch-long fruits within three to four years of planting. You’ll need one male plant to pollinate every six to eight female plants. Look for varieties, like Ananasnaja, that are hardy from USDA zones 3 to 8 and to 25 degrees F below zero with soil pH requirements of 5.5 to 7.0. Katy Fraser, a horticulturist with Raintree Nursery in Washington Fraser says this Russian selection is a favorite for its aromatic fruit and extremely productive nature.
Michigan State, a larger-fruited, hardy variety, or Ken’s Red, which bears sweet-flavored fruits with reddish-plum colored skins, are also good bets. Far-north gardeners can also plant Russian varieties, like Natasha and Tatyana, known to be hardy to zone 3 (35 degrees F below zero). Check with your plant source for appropriate pollinator varieties, as well.
If you garden in warmer climes, you may want to try your hand at growing fuzzy kiwis, as well. With their downy, brown skin and brilliant green interiors, these classic kiwi fruits are also easy to grow, though they are only hardy to temperatures as low as zero degrees F (zones 7 to 9) with soil pH requirements of 5.5 to 6.0. Varieties include Hayward and Saanichton. You’ll need a male pollinator for these plants, as well.
Like grapes, kiwis are vigorous growers and need to be properly pruned, trained and trellised. Good informational sources for their care and maintenance include Stella Otto’s The Backyard Berry Book: A Hands-on Guide to Growing Berries, Brambles, and Vine Fruit in the Home Garden (Ottographics, 1995), Desiree Myers’ e-book titled A Crash Course on How to Grow Kiwis (available on Amazon.com), and Pacific Northwest Extension’s publication Growing Kiwifruit.
About the Author: Horticulturist Jessica Walliser dreams of growing Eastern Prince, a fruit-bearing magnolia vine, in her zone-6 garden. She is co-host of KDKA radio’s The Organic Gardeners in Pittsburgh and author of several gardening books, including Grow Organic (St. Lynn’s Press, 2007) and Good Bug Bad Bug (St. Lynn’s Press, 2008).