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Friday, November 4, 2011


Kiwifruit or Actinidia deliciosa is native to southern China, according to Wikipedia. It is the ‘National Fruit” of China. Interestingly enough, Mary Isabel Fraser is reported to have brought the seeds from China to New Zealand. A gentleman from China was present in 1906 and as an experienced grower, was able to bring the vines to fruit in 1910. This catapulted New Zealand into first place as growers of kiwifruits for decades. This fruit that was originally named a Chinese gooseberry, was renamed a kiwifruit because the national symbol of New Zealand is none other than the kiwi bird. Now, I urge you to go to Google. You will discover as I did, that kiwi’s are very high in vitamin C and potassium. Also, they have been proven to be an effective anti-coagulant if eaten daily. The positive nutritional value of kiwis is legion. There are some people who experience an allergic reaction due to an enzyme called Actinidin. Generally, the symptoms are unpleasant itching and soreness of the mouth and occasionally, severe wheezing. For the majority of people who can tolerate the fruit, it is a boon to their health. Italy has taken the led as the primary kiwi growers in the world. This may because the plant requires temperate climates with reliable summer heat. Kiwifruit vines are cultivated by ensuring both male and female plants are adjacent to each other. The vines grow heavy, so there must be a support system around them. In fact, there is a similarity in the climate and methods of growing grapes. Okay, by now you are wondering what on earth does this high school geography report on kiwifruit have to do with anything, right? Here it is: My husband’s cousin, Richie, told us this crazy idea he had about raising kiwi on Martha’s Vineyard. Quite frankly, we laughed at him. There, in his living-room, were stacks of books on growing kiwis. He told us his plan in the winter. By spring, the cultivars of Actinidia deliciosa had arrived. When we returned in the summer, we teased him without mercy because there were about eight scrawny plants within a large cage-like structure. They looked silly. Richie was not the least deterred. He said, “You watch, next year, they will be established and begin to produce fruit.” He said, “The prevailing winds on Martha’s Vineyard make this an ideal location to grow kiwis.” The last laugh is on us. Richie died before the kiwi project reached its full proportions. The kiwi plants are abundant and healthy and laden with kiwis. The variety he chose are smaller than the kind you may see in the store, and the skins are edible. When you reach into the arbor and snag one of the purple-hued kiwis, the skin is firm and smooth with just a bit of give. If it is ripe, the kiwifruit nearly falls into your open palm, as if an invitation to pick it. When tasted just off the vines, the kiwi is sweet and tart and warm. It is like a trip to Olympia, quite honestly. Surely, this would be a fruit adored by the Gods. So Richie, a Portuguese fisherman who was born, raised and died on the Island, had a vision the rest of us had not shared. Richie’s wild experiment to grow kiwifruit on Martha’s Vineyard tells us as much about Richie as it does about the soil and wind on the Island. Richie always dreamed of the impossible and was hell-bent on proving that nothing was impossible if you put your mind -- and your heart -- into it.

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