Chinese Gooseberry

Chinese Gooseberry
Also called fuzzy kiwi, this does best in zones 7 through 9. It needs a growing season of 200 to 235 days. In addition, fuzzy kiwi has a chill requirement of 30 days with temperatures from 30 to 45 degrees F.

This is a good choice for the South. Quite vigorous, the deciduous, woody vine reaches 30 feet in length. The young shoots, stems, and petioles are covered with red velvety hairs. The coarse textured leaves, 4 to 7 inches wide, are alternate. Bronze initially, these later turn deep green. They’re downy on the underside.

Appearing in May, the showy creamy to yellow blooms are 1 to 1½ inches wide. These emerge on the previous year’s wood.

The berries are the familiar fuzzy, tough skinned, greenish-brown kiwis that are available commercially. The ovate fruits are typically 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. The nearly transparent flesh is green with a sweet-sour flavor.

Harvesting Kiwis

Hardy kiwis can yield a hundred pounds of fruits per plant, while the fuzzy ones can easily produce twice that amount. The latter aren’t as aromatic or sweet as those of the hardy kiwi and variegated kiwi.

For the most part, kiwi vines encounter few disease or pest issues other than Japanese beetles. In addition, cats seem to be attracted to the young plants.

The plants have to be several years old before their sex can be determined. Most any male can generally pollinate a female of the fuzzy or hardy kiwi so long as the blooms open at the same time for at least part of the time. The variegated kiwi generally blooms too late to pollinate the other two species. The fuzzy kiwi is c
onsidered the best pollen source for both the hardy and the fuzzy kiwis.

Storing and Using Kiwis

The variegated kiwi fruits ripen the earliest-usually from mid-August on. The hardy kiwis ripen from mid-September into October or so. The fuzzy ones are ready in October. These fruits will taste sweeter if they’re allowed to ripen on the vine, weather permitting.

These fruits are best if they’re harvested after the first frost. Initially, a young plant might only yield 25 pounds or so of fruits annually. This increases as the plant gets older.

When harvesting, leave the stem attached. To test whether the fruits are ready to harvest, pick one and cut it open to see whether the seeds are black. If so, they’re ready to harvest. Be aware that the flesh may still be firm.

In very cold climates, the season can be too short for the fruits to ripen on the vine. In those cases, harvest them after the first frost and bring them indoors to finish ripening.

Kiwis are very nutritious fruits. They’re high in Vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, and anti-oxidants. Avoid adding kiwis to gelatin desserts because these fruits prevent gelatin from setting properly. Kiwis have been used to tenderize meats.

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