James Wong's - Homegrown Revolution


Posted on: September 15th, 2012 by James Wong 31 Comments

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!


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…


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!


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.

Dried Cocktail Kiwis

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.

Cocktail Kiwis

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!)

Cocktail Kiwis

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!

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31 Responses

  1. Tsu Lin says:

    So, they really do not need to be skinned? I love it already. Can you convince the supermarkets to stock them up then!

  2. Becky Peddie says:

    Oooo, do you reckon this would work in my food dehydrator? My oven is like the seventh ring of hell, no matter how low I put it on, and I’m wondering if my beloved dehydrator would do the trick, or if they are too juicy and drippy for that?

    • James Wong says:

      They might well do! Definitely given ’em a good glaze in something like elderflower syrup or honey though as this help seal the fruit and stops them going brown and horrible.

  3. laura says:

    Hmm these look great! But I cant find them on suttons website – any other suppliers you know of?

  4. Conrad says:

    James, your website has both inspired and excited me!!
    I’ve grown exotic plants for years here in N. Ireland but the thought of growing vegetables never entered my head, I’ve always considered them boring and too much work . But after just a few minutes browsing your website over my lunch and I’m already thinking about what exciting and exotic edible plants I could try.
    I can’t wait to read more!!

  5. Conrad McCormick says:

    I will make sure I’m there, it sounds awesome. Though it looks like you’re coming over in March, not April. 😉

  6. Clare Kedwell says:

    Hi, James. This is such a fantastically inspirational website. So many great ideas! Am hoping to get to Seedy Sunday and hear your talk. I saw the Suttons trial plot at Hadlow, with electric daisies (crazy little plants), chinese chives etc. Really like the range you’re developing.
    Will plant some cocktail kiwis and chickpeas this year for sure.

  7. Chbeir says:

    I am seriously thinking of growing hardy kiwi in tht high mountains of lebanon i deffinitly need your valuable help

  8. […] nu noācām pie Issai Baby Kiwi. Tas ir vijīgs koks ar nelieliem, vīnogas izmēra kiwi augļiem. Mazos rakarus var ēst ar visu […]

  9. Brian Rowe says:

    Hi James,
    Just got your mini catalog from Suttons. Trying to find out the growing area needed for the cocktail kiwis. Only got a little garden trying to put them with my raspberries along the kitchen wall. Only wall in full sun most of the day.
    Going to get some of the other plants featured.

    • James Wong says:

      Cocktail kiwis can be grown much like a grapevine & like a grapevine can be either a garden-swamping monster or well behaved patio-plant depending on how enthusiastically you prune them. There’s a fantastic YouTube clip on exactly how to do this (not mine) embedded into this post.

  10. Sarah Hutton says:

    I love the idea of the cocktail kiwi, but am wondering how well it would grow in a container. Has anyone tried that?

  11. v doney says:

    When I Googled this plant it said it needed male and female plants. There is no mention of this in the Suttons catalogue.
    Is it self fertile?

    • James Wong says:

      Yes you normally need both male and female kiwi plants if you are looking for fruit, UNLESS you have a self-fertile variety like ‘Issai’. This is the one Suttons sells. :)

  12. Mary Ann says:

    Hi James, I’m a fellow Malaysian, and I’ve been following your series on TV here, and i decided to check out your site! It’s really well done!

    I’d like to ask, will these little babies grow in our Malaysian weather? The blistering heat, thunderstorms and all?

    Thank youu!

  13. Monika says:

    Hi James,

    do you know, if a cocktail kiwi plant from Suttons will fruit in the first year or how long do I have to wait?

    • James Wong says:

      Nope. They are pretty comparable to a grape vine in terms of fruit set. This starts with a modest harvest in year 2 or 3, which becomes increasingly heavy each year after that. Mature plants (about 5 yrs after planting) can kick out 400 fruit per year!

  14. Sarah says:

    Is there anywhere in the United States that I might be able to find these gems? I want to grow them but I can’t find anyone who sells plants or seeds here…

  15. Serena Wilson says:

    Hi James

    We bought a small cocktail Kiwi plant from one of your suppliers and during the cold weathr we kept it in its pot on the kitchen window sill. The plant went mental and grew and grew. Since it has been warmer, we’ve planted out in a corner of the garden in a south facing corner against a wall that we were hoping to train it up. The plant has been in the ground for about 6 weeks and just stopped growing. The growing tip looked green until two days ago and has now turned black and one by one the large leaves have gone yellow and dried out then dropped off. I think that it is almost dead. I’ve kept the area well watered and the radishes next to it have thrived. Any suggestions?

  16. David Mahaney says:

    I live in Canada where do I get some??

  17. Adam B says:

    Hi James,

    There’s a talk on another forum about the self-feritlity of Issai kiwis which suggests that pollination from another source is neccesary. Can i ask if your plants produced fruit that were parthenocarpic, without seed?

    Loving your work btw. My cucamelons are just flowering now 😉


  18. michael says:

    Can these be grown up a obelisk a 2.2m one or does it have to be wire and my back wall lol

    • James Wong says:

      As long as you really keep on top of the spur pruning (see the video on this page) to turn them into a shrub rather than a sprawling vine, they should be fine on a 2.2 obelisk.

  19. Natasha Tanner says:

    Hi James, I was wondering if this plant would be ok in a container, and if so how big would it need to be?

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