Mega sweet, fuzz-free mini kiwis that hail from the frozen wastes of Siberia? No I’m not making it up. Intensely sugary, super easy-to-grow and even hardy down to -35C, if haribo reinvented the kiwi this would be it!
WHAT ARE COCKTAIL KIWIS?
Coming into season in mid-late September, the deliciously sweet, tangy berries of cocktail kiwis (Actinidia arguta) are summer’s last gasp of glory. Growing on little bunches, much like a grape, they are far softer and sugarier than the regular giant fuzzy type & without that nasty acidity. A single plant is capable of producing up to an astonishing 400 mini kiwis once established! The good news for UK exotic fruit lovers is that they are perfectly hardy even in the most Arctic winters, shrugging off chills 7C colder than the UK record low.
These guys don’t just look like kiwis, they are simply a different species (closely related the to fuzzy supermarket kind) that hails from far further north, right up into Siberia. Don’t worry there’s been no geneticist’s tinkering going on here…
THE HUGE DIVERSITY OF KIWIS: IMAGE SOURCE: THE SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL – BMC GENOMICS (CLICK PIC FOR LINK)
In fact of all the 9o different species of kiwis, the conventional kind is probably the least flavourful, hardy and nutritious! So all the more reason to opt for the adorable ‘cocktail’ type.
Don’t believe they will grow in the UK? Well here’s a pic from a recent trip I took up the my mates Sue and Bleddyn at their wonderful nursery Crug Farm Plants in North Wales, which regularly experiences freezes down to -20C! Plus pictures of commercial plantations in Belgium and Canada. As of September 2012 there is even a kiwi ‘vineyard’ in Herefordshire!
HOW TO GROW COCKTAIL KIWIS
All they need from you is a strong support to scramble over, a site in full sun and a a handful of 10-minute pruning sessions over the summer to keep their mind on fruiting. There are full details on exactly how to do this in the homegrown revolution manual (i.e. my latest book) & even a handy little video on exactly how to do it here:
BUYING THE PLANTS
Want to know where you can get your hands on one? Check out these little plants available from the lovely plant geeks at Suttons Seeds.
HOW TO EAT COCKTAIL KIWIS
Now here comes the good part!
These little fruit can be eaten in all the same ways as their larger, supermarket cousin – just being far tastier and with no fiddly peeling. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.
AUTUMNAL FRUIT SALAD WITH COCKTAIL KIWIS
Simply slice the kiwis in half and mix with whatever fruit you have to hand. I’ve picked homegrown inca berries and Chilean guavas (look out for posts on these in the future). Scatter over a really good quality Greek yoghurt and drizzle with honey – pure heaven.
WINEGUMMY COCKTAIL KIWIS
I first got the idea to make these sticky sweet treats when I stumbled across this fascinating picture of sun-dried cocktail kiwis, which are apparently a hugely popular snack in Japan and China, on Kazuo Ichikawas great Flickr site (Click pic for link). After a bunch of experiments I think I have finally cracked how to do it at home.
1) SLICE your cocktail kiwis in half and scatter them over a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
2) BRUSH them with a little elderflower cordial to seal in their sticky gumminess. This also really complements their fragrant gooseberry-like sweetness.
3) BAKE them in the oven on a really low setting (50C-80C) until they are just beginning to collapse. This will take roughly about 3 hours depending on your oven. Be warned though leaving them in too long or over too high a temperature and you will end up with a brown, shrivelled up mess. (This is the voice of experience talking!)
4) COOL them on a kitchen worktop for 30 mins, which will see them become firmer and more ‘gummy’ as the jelly-like pulp starts to set.
5) SCOFF them just as they are or scattered over muesli, ice-cream or homemade granola. Bloody marvellous!
For full instructions on how to grow, cook and eat Cocktail Kiwis check out pg 226 of my new book Homegrown Revolution!