The hottest fruit for Minnesota is the cold-hardy kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta). While the plants are related to the ones that produce the brown, fuzzy fruits you see in grocery stores, hardy kiwi fruits are more grape-sized, nonfuzzy, noticeably sweeter, and eaten whole.
Kiwis require at least one male plant to pollinate a female plant or plants. At this year’s Plant Sale, we’ll finally have both males and females, after selling the male plant, Arctic Beauty, as an ornamental for several years. The female variety is called Red Beauty. (Both are in 1 gallon pots for $10.00, F026 and F027.)
The fruits ripen August through October. Once established, one female vine can produce 15-20 pounds of fruit. It’s high in vitamin C, and can be dried like raisins.
As an added ornamental benefit, the leaves of the male plant are variegated green, white and pink. The female plant’s leaves have a reddish cast. The vines need a support to grow on as they twist and climb upward to 12′.
Keeping the base of the plant shaded is recommended because the plants like consistent moisture, plus it keeps down weeds and decreases suckering (when more shoots come up from the roots).
A recent article on The Heavy Table local food site included a lot of good background on the fruit and how to grow the plants, including these tips: “Only one male vine produces enough pollen for six female plants. A few considerations before planting: The growing site should be sloped, shaded from afternoon sun, have well-drained soil, and organic matter.”
If you’re interested in growing hardy kiwis for fruit, I recommend reading up on growing and pruning tips on the following websites:
(All photos from the Wikimedia Commons)