Saturday, September 27, 2008

What are these?

They are the harvest from the hardy kiwifruit vine in my parents' backyard - minus a few that got eaten before. Not a big harvest I know. I figure it is due to two reasons. One, the age of the vine (it is old). Two, the half day of light it gets, as opposed to a full day (willow trees are pigs).

The size of these green beauties is somewhere between a grape and a cherry - at least the above-pictured variety. There are lots of varieties of hardy kiwifruit, as there are of "regular" kiwifruit, some the shape and size of dates.

How does one eat them? One difference from fuzzy-skinned kiwis (usually Hayward) you see in the grocery store produce aisle is that you don't need to peel (or divide) the hardy kiwi. You eat them like cherries. Except there is no stone to spit out. The insides of them look just like a large size regular kiwi, but miniature.

They are ripe while they retain that premature green appearance. Fully dormant, the vines can withstand temperatures down to -25F, and perhaps lower.

Now one might think of hardy oranges when told of hardy kiwis, and conflate the two. Meaning one might presume that hardy kiwis, like hardy oranges, are good for nothing but throwing at crows - or using for marmalade. Not so. The hardy kiwi, and this I find surprising, tastes just like regular kiwis. And well, they are regular kiwis; just originating from a more northern climate of China as opposed to their southern Chinese fuzzies. No, kiwifruits do not originate from Australia, or New Zealand.

Anyhow, the texture of the hardy ones are also identical to the texture of the others, except the skin, which lends the fruits a welcome pugnacious hint. It is still a little odd for me to eat them and have all that same kiwi-world on a smaller scale. Smaller scale, size-wise. For these hardy kiwis are actually somewhat sweeter than the larger ones. Actually, if you eat the really tiny ones (there is quite a bit of variation in the sizes), their sweetness abandons that zing and twang which is the hallmark of kiwifruit, and becomes more reminiscent of a grape.

There is some small industry developing, and is apparently on the rise, for hardy kiwifruit. Here in British Columbia and in Oregan. Here in B.C. they call them 'grape kiwis'. In Oregan, 'baby kiwi'. I like 'baby kiwi' better. 'Grape kiwi' takes too much away from 'kiwi'. Really though, they both need to come up with a better name that will stick. Wee Kiwi?

The vine in my parents yard has been there for years without producing because there was no male pollinizer. Or fruits would develop, but only to a certain size. The thing is, all those years we figured it was a "regular" kiwifruit vine. I bought a male last year and planted it in. This year the male flowered, and lo, the flowers on the female gave way to the size fruits pictured above. We thought they had a lot more growing to do, thinking it was a regular kiwi. Then I did some searching on the internet and it began to dawn on me that they were basically full size and that what we had all these years was a hardy kiwi.

Now I need to get another female and plant it in beside. Or maybe two.

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