Fruit of the Month: Kiwifruit!

The kiwifruit made its debut in California just a few decades ago but it has sure packed a tart and sweet punch to our year round availability of local fresh fruit!

Background and History

The kiwifruit is native to China and gained commercial importance in New Zealand in 1940.  In 1958, the fruit was exported to the United States.  In 1962, a California produce dealer began importing the fruit and named it the “kiwifruit” because of its resemblance to the New Zealand’s fuzzy brown bird.  In 1967, the fruit was commercial grown in Butte and Kern counties.

Kiwifruit grow on a large, deciduous vine.  Cross-pollination is necessary to produce the fruit, and typically male and female plants are planted in the same vineyard for bees to pollinate between flowers.  The fruit is egg shaped and has fuzzy, brown skin.  The flesh is a bright emerald green and filled with tiny, black seeds.  The fruit is most commonly eaten fresh with little to no processing needed.  The entire fruit is edible, from the skin to the seeds!

Type and Characteristics

There are over 40 known kiwifruit varieties in production around the world.  In California, the main cultivar is the Hayward, known for its large size and high sugar content.

Harvesting and Storage

Harvesting begins in October and lasts through November.  The best way to harvest is to handpick or clip the fruit off the vine with hand pruners.  Since the vines are trained on trellises, the fruit can end up being very high and out of reach.  Therefore, ladders and step stools are recommended for the harvest.

For best flavor, the kiwifruit should be allowed to soften before eating.  You can harvest the fruit when hard and they will soften within a few days.  To tell if the fruit is ripe, press the outside of the fruit with your thumb to see if it is soft.  They can be stored in a refrigerator for 4 or more weeks.

Propagation and Care

Kiwifruit needs heavy and frequent watering.  The vine grows well in hot summers and is best grown in areas like Sacrament and San Joaquin Valleys.

The kiwifruit vine climbs and wraps around a support structure like pole beans.  Therefore it is necessary to prune and train the vine and create or provide a trellis structure.  Pruning occurs during the winter, with some maintenance pruning happening after the flowering in the summer.   The purpose of pruning during the early stages of growth is to create a permanent trunk and well spaced, evenly distributed lateral vines.


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