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Friday, 1 February 2008

Of Kiwis and Almonds

‘I love fuzzy male kiwis, though clean shaven Australians can cause problems.’
W.M., Hobart, Australia

This week went really quick somehow, I don’t know what’s happened to it. The weather has been a bit of a mixed bag, mostly cloudy with occasional showers. I sowed some lettuces indoors, radicchio and green lettuce as well as some leek.

After I had acquired the almond tree last week I read up in my Royal Horticultural Society book on Pruning and Training, that you should always plant at least 2 together for pollination. So we spent some part of the week finding another specimen which wasn’t too expensive. During our search we came across some well priced kiwi vines. I always quite fancied growing kiwis and if they grow in the relatively cool climate of New Zealand surely they’d flourish here I thought. I didn’t know much about how to grow kiwis, but I had heard that they need one male plant to a few female plants. The male plant does not produce fruit, but is needed for pollination. The technical term for this apparently is dioecious. So not being able to resist a bargain I bought a male and two females.

The RHS book on Pruning and Training does have a chapter on kiwis, however it’s very technical without much of the way in instructive pictures. It did however say, there a various ways of training kiwis, but one way definitely not to use is twirling it around a stake. This is exactly the way they sell them in this country. The other thing it said was, that it was quite tolerant to different soil types, except clay soils which, of course, is exactly what we have got. Well to find slightly easier instructions on how to plant and train kiwis I searched the internet and came up with 2 useful websites (one of them with the above quote. It appears that the growth of kiwis is somewhat similar to grapevines, only they are even more rampant! It suggested that plants trained to an Espallier system should be planted 5 metres apart and a strong support system should be constructed. A kiwi plant can apparently live up to 50 years and when mature is capable of producing up to 250 pounds of fruit. So there is a lot of weight to be supported.

Today the rain held off for long enough to plant these kiwis and build their trellising. I hope they’ll forgive me the clayey soil and the fact they had been twisted around a stake. The plant you see above in the foreground is female in case you ignorant people can’t tell the difference. On the way home we stopped at the local supermarket and guess what? I finally found that second almond tree I’ve been looking for all week. As soon as it stops raining again I shall plant that somewhere near the first one. And for dinner tonight it’s the national dish of Ponzano Superiore, Torta di Verdura or as it is locally known Scherpada. It’s a pie stuffed with a ricotta, Swiss chard mixture. Swiss chard or bietole in Italian is a great, versatile vegetable. According to John Seymour you grow it as cattle food, but I think it’s delicious and it’s used a lot around here (in human food).

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