Kiwi: I like to eat them, but how to grow them?

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The greenery of the kiwi vines looks a little like kudzu, which makes the author wonder if there might be some kiwifruit along the roadside.
The greenery of the kiwi vines looks a little like kudzu, which makes the author wonder if there might be some kiwifruit along the roadside.
Photo courtesy of Dolly R. Sickl

I caught up with my friend Lindy Parr last week to talk about her infamous kiwifruit. We’re in the same book club and for the last two years, Lindy’s kiwis have been regular conversation fodder. I’m happy to have finally gotten a glimpse, because even though I’m a lifelong kiwi eater, I’ll admit I had no idea how they actually grew.

Now retired, Lindy and her husband Richard live just outside Pittsboro on a beautiful piece of land. She’s a world traveler, adventurer and avid reader. Long before moving to Chatham County, the Parrs lived in Brazil and Portugal in the late ’80s and early ’90s. “I was learning Portuguese while I lived in Brazil,” Lindy said, “and spoke conversationally enough to get by.”

Here in Chatham County, their large fenced-in garden plot hosts a much smaller vegetable crop than it has in years past; Lindy focused on tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula and cilantro this summer. But her fruit game is on point, with apple and plum trees, fig bushes, concord grapes, and kiwi in a small grove.

This kiwifruit is easily recognizable from the supermarket, with its fuzzy brown skin.

When I asked for details on the kiwi, Lindy laughed and said, “I had to look it up, and I learned so much.” They have two varieties — there’s the hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta), a deciduous, fast-growing, twining, woody vine that likes full sun to part shade, and is only slightly larger than a grape. And then there’s the kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa), which is the brown fuzzy fruit most people visualize. It’s also a fast-growing woody vine that likes full sun. Both varieties are dioecious, meaning there needs to be a male plant and a female plant in order for pollination to occur.

Lindy’s had the kiwi for 12 years, and “it took about five years to get fruit,” she said. “Some of the male plants died early on, and we had to replace them.” They got their kiwi from a seed catalogue, as small plants. Now they fertilize them a little in the early spring, and Richard prunes them a bit annually. The twisted vines are as thick as any tree trunk and drape beautifully over their fence. “They’re not the easiest plants to grow,” she said, “so do a little research so you know what you’re into if you’re going to grow them.”

“We harvest by hand in October,” said Lindy, “and put them into a large drawer in the fridge. They’ll last about four months.”

I thought she might have a handful of terrific recipes to share, along with elaborate, continental ways to eat kiwi ­— being that she’s the only person I’ve ever met who grows them — but she laughed and said she just likes to eat them out of hand or cut them up on a salad. Come on, Lindy!

Are there any readers out there with interesting kiwi recipes?


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