Ever after seeing the Kiwi flowers in the Navarro's garden in La Garde last May I wanted to know more about the fruit and how to grow them successfully in Southern France.
My interest was rekindled by reading an article on Actinidia deliciosa (kiwifruit) recently. The following are a few details on the origin of the kiwi:
The Actinidia deliciosa is a native to Southern China. It is grown mainly in the mountainous area upstream of the Yangtze River, as well as in other parts of China including Sichuan. Other species of Actinidia deliciosa are found in India, Japan and south-eastern Siberia.
In the early 20th century seeds of the Actinidia deliciosa were introduced into New Zealand by the principal of "Wanganui Girls Collage", who was visiting mission schools in China. The seeds were subsequently planted by a Wanganui nurseryman, Alexander Allison in 1906. In 1910 his vines produced their first fruits. Since then its popularity has spread and spread.
Initially it was known by the name of "Chinese gooseberry", but the name was changed by New Zealand exporters for marketing reasons in the 1950's to "kiwifruit". The name has stuck and is now known world wide as "kiwi" short for "kiwifruit". Italy is the principal producer of kiwifruit in the world, followed by New Zealand, Chili, France, Greece, Japan and the USA.
The kiwi is a climber that grows up to 2m per year. The average height of the kiwi is 4m. The climber needs a strong structure as support. Lateral shoots must not be allowed to twin around supporting poles. struts or battons; they will constrict and thinken to cause distortion or damage.
Training the kiwi on a southern facing wall is ideal, an espalier form is suitable, with a verticle central stem, and tiers of horizontal arms trained on wires 30cm apart.
Alternatively, train the kiwi across the top of a pergola, or on a tripod of stout poles.
Pruning is done in winter. The 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.
In general, to pruduce kiwifruit you need a female and a male plant. If you want to plant several kiwi's, 1 male plant will suffice for 3-5 female plants. Some well known varieties are: "Kiwi Hayward", "Kiwi Chico" and "Kiwi Saanichten 12". A kiwi available in France that has yellow flesh instead of green is "Kiwi Yellow River", 20€ per 2 litre pot.
Self-fertilising kiwi's do exist, to mention a few: "Kiwi Jenny", "Kiwi Oriental Delight". A readily available self-fertilising variety in France is "Kiwi Renact", price about 12€ for a pot of 2 litres.
Not only do kiwi's look good in fruit salads and taste good, they are a rich source of vitamin C, its potassium content by weight is slightly less than that of a banana. It also contains vitamin E and a small amount of vitamin A.
Bibliography: Bob Flowerdew: All about fruit, RHS Pruning & Training, Rustica: Arbres fruitiers et petits fruits, Wikipedia 'Kiwifruit'.