Kiwis on the Coast

Pick your own Chinese super fruit

Photograph by david vernon/istockphoto

Kiwi is the name for both a flightless bird in New Zealand and a fuzzy, russet-brown fruit with a bright green interior. The kiwifruit, native to the Yangtze River valley in China, is well loved around the world for its tangy, sweet flavor, and favored by nutritionists for its high vitamin C content.

Although many think of the kiwi as somewhat exotic, these super fruits are grown locally on the San Mateo coast at Coastways Ranch, one of five locations owned and operated by Swanton Berry Farm. From November to January, you can visit the ranch and pick kiwis right off the vine.

Coastways Ranch grows the New Zealand Hayward variety of kiwis, a cultivar known for its hardiness. But its parent company, Swanton Berry Farm, is better known for its berry crops. Considered to be the first organic strawberry farm in California, Swanton Berry Farm also produces olallieberries, blackberries, and a variety of vegetables.

Sandy Brown, one of 10 partners who own and operate Swanton Berry Farm, said the decision to grow kiwis was made when they began leasing additional land at Coastways Ranch, just across from Año Nuevo State Park, in December 2003.

“Kiwis chose us. When we began leasing Coastways Ranch, the kiwi vines had already been established.”

Similar to grape vines, the woody kiwi vines are staked for support. Brown says that kiwis grow best in “moist but well-drained soil” and that the vines are “drip-irrigated during dry months and rain fed when possible.”

Coastways Ranch has been certified organic since 2007. To make sure that the kiwi vines’ soil remains fertile and productive, Brown says the farmers engage in various methods such as “crop rotation and cover cropping to build healthy soil, planting buffers as pest-control and erosion prevention, and minimizing external inputs.” The farmers also maintain beehives for honeybees, which aid in pollinating the kiwis.

Even though the pick-your-own kiwi season at Coastways Ranch falls in the middle of winter, Brown says the kiwis have “a group of dedicated fans” who come to pick the fruit regardless of the weather. To take part, call for an update on the kiwi crop, or stop in at Coastways Ranch on Highway 1, 36 miles south of Half Moon Bay and 21 miles north of Santa Cruz.

More good food articles here.

Add your comment: