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The Kiwi fruit

Kiwi (also known as Actinidia deliciosa) is a small edible berry of a woody vine. It has a fibrous, dull greenish-brown skin and bright green or golden flesh with rows of tiny, black, edible seeds. In Kenya the kiwi fruit is a relatively new idea it is still underdeveloped hence and the demand exceeds supply.

It is a temperate fruit that flourishes in a cool and cold climate. It is hardy and can tolerate both extreme temperatures (extremely hot and cold). In Kenya, it can be grown in Central, Western highlands, and Central Rift valley highlands. It grows on climbing vines that need to be trained on poles with a wire on top to offer support. The vines take about 2 to 4 years to mature and can bear fruit for an average of 12 to 15 and a maximum of 30 years if properly maintained.

It is propagated either from a seed or stem cutting. Planting is done around March to take advantage of the long rains.

The kiwi plant is dioecious, meaning individual plants are either male or female. Only female plants bear fruit, but only when pollinated by a male plant. It takes 1 male plant to pollinate at least 8 females. To differentiate the gender, wait for the plant to bloom then check the flowers. The male has a brightly colored yellow center due to anthers bearing pollen while the female flowers have bright white well-defined ovaries at the base of the flower.

Ecological conditions:

  • Soils

Should be well-drained as the kiwi plant is prone to root rot and have a pH of 5 to 6.5. Kiwi does not require much fertilizer application due to the burning of roots. It has shallow roots, therefore, requires irrigation.

  • Altitude and rainfall

It can grow in a wide range of altitudes from 10000 to 2500m.

  • Temperatures

The optimal temperatures during the growing season are between 14 and 24°C. The plant can tolerate cold but is damaged by temperatures below -8°C.

Diseases

  1. Armillaria root rot

The fungal pathogen survives on diseased wood and roots below ground for many years. The vines once infected are weakened and lead to complete collapse. It is managed by clearing land before planting, removing and burning roots, and ensuring proper irrigation

  1. Bacterial blight

Symptoms appear as brown, sunken lesions on the petals that enclose the floral buds. During bud expansion, the petals exhibit a yellow-orange discoloration that later becomes necrotic.

Small yellow leaf spots may occur along the leaf margins and begin as small, yellow. Later the spots enlarge and merge to form large irregular patches (lesions) of necrotic tissue. It is managed by avoiding injury to plant tissues

Pest

  1. Nematodes

Root-knot nematodes damage the root system if there are relatively high soil populations present. The attacked vines become slightly weaker and fruit size on infected vines is reduced. Nematodes are best controlled before planting because there are no kiwifruit rootstocks that are resistant to it.

The control practices include;

  • Irrigating frequently to avoid plant stress.
  • Remove broadleaf weeds and do not plant cover crops susceptible to root-knot nematode
  • Avoid planting kiwi fruit uninterruptedly where root-knot nematodes are present in the soil.
  • Use of chemicals; nematicides

It is recommended to fumigate broadcast treatments in October or November the year before planting.

Value addition of kiwi fruit

  1. Kiwi jam

Remove the hard node at the top and bottom of the kiwifruit. Cut the fruit into slices and then into and put in a thick-based pan with both a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of lemon juice per kiwi fruit.

Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the mixture thickens and becomes gloopy.

  • Kiwi juice

Choose a ripe kiwi by pressing it a bit and checking whether it is soft or not. Do not choose ones that are too hard or too soft. Since kiwi is small and relatively expensive it is advisable to mix with other fresh fruit to increase the quantity and make it a healthier juice. Juicing requires fresh fruits.

  • Freezing kiwi

Choose a ripe kiwi fruit, slice, crushed, or as a whole. As kiwi is high in acid add sugar to improve flavor and to keep the fruit firm. Slices may be frozen individually by placing them on a cookie sheet or tray and freezing. When frozen, package in bags. These slices are great for garnishes.

  • Kiwi preserves

Kiwi is high in acid and low in pectin. When making jams and jellies, it is best to use recipes with added pectin. Kiwi can be substituted in your favorite recipes for another high acid, low pectin fruits such as strawberry, cherry, or pineapple

  • Kiwi chutney

Place lime juice, sugar, onion, garlic, ginger, pepper flakes, salt (any other preferred spices) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook.  Select firm ripe kiwi fruit peel, slice and add to the mixture then bring it back to a boil then remove it from heat. Let cool and refrigerate.

This is a nice accompaniment to chicken, fish, or pork.

  • Drying kiwi

Select soft, ripe fruit peel and slice. Place on dryer sheets and dry until supple and leathery. Also one can heat the slices in heavy sugar syrup for a few minutes before drying for added flavor and to destroy the enzyme papain that breaks down protein and can cause mouth irritation.

Nutritional and health benefits:

The fruit is used as food and medicine as it has a whole range of nutrients.

• It contains as much potassium as the banana

• It has more vitamin C than the oranges

• Sweet but with low calories

• Has high fiber content

• Contains 10% of recommended folate. Pregnant ladies are encouraged to consume

• Packed with blood pressure lowering

• In beauty and health, it is an ingredient for DIY masks used for exfoliating, nourishing and anti-aging

  • Kiwellin and kissper are proteins in kiwi fruit that have inflammatory properties
  • It contains vitamin K and traces of calcium and phosphorus that contribute to bone health.