By Bob Eister

OSU ext. master gardener volunteer


My doctor just told me I had a potassium deficiency and I needed to eat at least one banana a day. I don’t like bananas – their taste is so strong.

But he said another good option to consider is kiwi fruit. So I grow the hardy kiwi variety at home – and I get lots of questions about how I grow kiwi in the Mahoning Valley.

Hardy kiwis are small fruits that pack a lot of flavor and plenty of health benefits. Their green flesh is sweet and tangy. It’s also full of nutrients like vitamins C, K and E, folate and potassium.

Kiwis also have a lot of antioxidants and are a good source of fiber. Containing almost 20 vital nutrients, including five times the vitamin C of an orange in one serving, kiwis can legitimately be called a superfruit. They can be eaten as they are or blended into a smoothie. It is best not to cook them so they retain their vitamin C content.

The fuzzy brown kiwi, which we can purchase readily from our grocery stores, cannot be grown here because of its cold tenderness and long growing season. But we can grow the hardy kiwi, belonging to the species Actinidia arguta and Actinidia kolomikta. It is much more cold hardy and grows as a vine. There are many varieties, all of which have a berry about the size of a grape. I have tried to grow both the Anna and Issai vines. With “Anna,” the skin is green and develops a purple-red blush in the sun. The Issai variety is the only self-fertile variety (not requiring a male pollinator). However, this variety has not performed well in the local climate.

Here’s some key growing points:

Plan to wait – it takes five to nine years to get fruit.

Pollination – Some are self-pollinating, others need a second variety in order to bear fruit.

Spring frosts – Although hardy plants, spring frosts can damage new growth. Plant in open spaces and away from frost pockets.

Birds & wildlife – Like other backyard fruit crops, have a plan to net or otherwise deter wildlife or they’ll eat the crop first.

Trellis – The vines are strong and can get up to 40 feet long. You’ll need a trellis.

Pruning – For the best fruit crop, vines will need pruned each season.

If all grows well, your hardy kiwi vine can yield a substantial harvest of 50 or more pounds of healthy fruit per season. For information on growing this sweet treat, go to: http://go.osu.edu/hardykiwis.

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