Kiwifruit (often shortened to kiwi) or Chinese gooseberry is the name given to the edible berries of several species of woody vines in the genus Actinidia. It has a fibrous, dull greenish-brown skin and bright green or golden flesh with rows of tiny, black, edible seeds. The fruit has a soft texture and a sweet but unique flavor.
Kiwi vines grow well in areas with adequate rainfall and well-drained soil. Think about areas that are neither too wet nor too dry and preferably with red soil which tends to be well drained. For example Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, Western Kenya, some parts of Kajiado, warmer parts of Central and Nairobi areas.
Actinidia deliciosa (previously A. chinensis). The genus name Actinidia comes from the Greek meaning ray, alluding to the styles of flowers (the maleflower parts) that radiate like spokes of a wheel.
Plant the vines at around the month of March to take advantage of long-rains or put an irrigation system. Also add a compost manure to provide the crop with adequate nutrients. Kiwi plants are susceptible to a bacterial infection known as Psa and so you may need to invest in biochemicals that are usually used on fruits like oranges and grapes.
Often in commercial farming, different breeds are used for rootstock, fruit bearing plants, and pollinators. Therefore, the seeds produced are crossbreeds of their parents. Even if the same breeds are used for pollinators and fruit bearing plants, there is no guarantee that the fruit will have the same quality as the parent. Additionally, seedlings take seven years before they flower, so determining whether the kiwi is fruit bearing or a pollinator is time consuming. Therefore, most kiwifruits, with the exception of rootstock and new cultivars, are propagated asexually. This is done by grafting the fruit producing plant onto rootstock grown from seedlings or, if the plant is desired to be a true cultivar, rootstock grown from cuttings of a mature plant.
Kiwi fruit flowering
Most of the plants require a male plant to pollinate a female plant for the female plant to produce fruit (dioecious). For a good yield of fruit, one male vine for every three to eight female vines is required. Other varieties can self-pollinate, but they produce a greater and more reliable yield when pollinated by male kiwifruit vines.
Maturation and harvest
Kiwifruit is picked by hand, and commercially grown on sturdy support structures, as it can produce several tonnes per hectare, more than the rather weak vines can support. These are generally equipped with a watering system for irrigation and frost protection in the spring.
Kiwifruit vines require vigorous pruning, similar to that of grapevines. Fruit is borne on one-year-old and older canes, but production declines as each cane ages. Canes should be pruned off and replaced after their third year. Four year-old plants can produce up to 6500 kg per acre while eight year-old plants can produce 8,000 kg per acre. The plants produce their maximum at 8 to 10 years old. The seasonal yields are variable, a heavy crop on a vine one season generally comes with a light crop the following season.
A 1/8 acre piece of land with 50 vines can produce 5,000 fruits per year (about 400 Kgs) on a bad season. A bumper harvest can reach up to 10,000 fruits (about 800 Kgs)
Fruits harvested when firm will ripen when stored properly for long periods. This allows fruit to be sent to market up to 8 weeks after harvest. Firm kiwifruit ripen after a few days to a week when stored at room temperature, but should not be kept in direct sunlight. Faster ripening occurs when placed in a paper bag with an apple, pear, or banana. Once a kiwifruit is ripe, however, it is preserved optimally when stored far from other fruits, as it is very sensitive to the ethylene gas they may emit, thereby tending to over-ripen even in the refrigerator. If stored appropriately, ripe kiwifruit normally keep for about one to two weeks.
A medium size kiwifruit (76 grams) provides 46 calories, 0.3 g fat, 1 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, and 2.6 g dietary fiber found partly in the edible skin. Kiwifruit is a rich source of vitamin C (112% of the Daily Value per 100 grams) and vitamin K, and a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin E (nutrient tables, right). Kiwifruit seed oil contains on average 62% alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Kiwifruit pulp contains carotenoids, such as provitamin A beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
The average kiwi vine takes 2 to 3 years to mature and start producing fruits. The first few harvests may however not be as productive but this tends to improve throughout the plants mature life. The local market is currently under-served as there are very few farmers who have taken up this idea. You can sell to local markets or even approach the big supermarkets
Kiwifruit may be eaten raw, made into juices, used in baked goods, prepared with meat or used as a garnish. The whole fruit including the skin is suitable for human consumption, but the skin is often discarded due to its texture.
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