by Lisa Giroday, Sandra Lopuch and Sam Philips | What do you think of when you hear the word Kiwi? People from New Zealand, weird-looking little flightless birds, Gandalf, Marmite, and so on, right? Us, too, but then a couple of weeks ago at the Vancouver Farmers Market, we stumbled upon a kind gentleman selling his locally grown Kiwis. We came back the next week, and lo and behold, there he was again! We weren’t dreaming! And he’ll be there selling his Kiwis in Vancouver for a while yet.
How about some history, first? The fuzzy Kiwi, or Actinidia is native to Southern China. Originally called yáng táo (literal translation: sunny peach), it was never grown in BC for resale until 1986. For the most part, BC production has been on the southern coast of Vancouver Island. What happened elsewhere before this? Kiwis were first brought from China to New Zealand at the beginning of the 20th century, and weren’t commercially produced there until 1937. So what was the Kiwi called before it adopted the name of New Zealand’s national bird? Well, New Zealanders initially called it the “Chinese Gooseberry”, but then changed it for “Melonette” for exporting (due to US-China relations being contentious). An importer from San Francisco decided Melonette wasn’t suitable either, as melons and berries were high in duty – so it was suggested that this little fruit be named Kiwi – after the national bird – having a similar appearance (egg shaped, brown and furry). Cute, right?
The seller at the Vancouver Farmers Market, Petkov, grows his pesticide-free Kiwis in an Abbotsford grove. He uses sustainable drip irrigation for the vines. The BC kiwi cultivar is called Saanichton 12 and it has a tougher core than other varieties. Their vines blossom in June-July, and harvest occurs in October-November when they are still hard and sour. At this point they are left to store and ripen, and they keep about 6 months in proper storage. Petkov reported that his Kiwi harvest took place around November 9th. While the Kiwis here seem to have a bit less residual sugars, they are still delicious and fresh and have more vitamin C than oranges, more folic acid than strawberries, and more potassium than bananas. And let’s not forget fiber! Apparently, a Kiwi has more than a cup of bran! They are also rich in antioxidants and contain beneficial enzymes. Way to go, Kiwi, you overachiever! Whether you like biting into them whole or cutting them in half and digging in with a spoon, Kiwis are always bright additions to the morning. And knowing that they are grown right here, they just got a little bit brighter.
Victory Gardens is a team of local urban farmers for hire. Lisa, Sandra and Sam help transform tired or underused residential and commercial green spaces into food producing gardens. Their goal is to challenge the way communities use space and to participate in the change needed to consume food more sustainably. For the rest of the growing season, they’ve hooked up with Scout to share some cool tips and tricks on how to get the best from of our own backyards.