The baby kiwi, or hardy kiwi, is a delectable relative of its much larger and fuzzier cousin. The crop originates in Asia and is grown commercially in New Zealand and Oregon. While considered unusual and sometimes difficult to obtain in the United States, the fruit is certainly worth a try if it should be encountered in a supermarket. The baby kiwi can be eaten raw or cooked, and it has a zesty flavor similar to the conventional kiwi, but without the intense acidity that is sometimes painful to the taste buds.
The baby kiwi resembles a grape. It is a small, greenish, oblong fruit, which can be eaten whole or peeled and eaten, depending on the desire of the consumer. It grows on extremely frost tolerant vines with large, spreading leaves. To produce baby kiwis, the vines need a frost free period of 120 days, but they are otherwise tolerant to temperatures well below freezing. As a result, the baby kiwi fruit is well suited to northern climates.
Baby kiwis are often considered berries and are usually found in the berry section of the produce area. They can be eaten like berries and are delicious in fruit salads, dressed lightly with whipped cream, or in pies, jams, and jellies. The baby kiwi is quite versatile, retaining its characteristic kiwi flavor through cooking. Much like regular kiwis, the baby kiwi is perfectly edible if bruised, although it may develop a cloyingly sweet flavor.
While vine ripened fruit tastes better, immature baby kiwis can be picked and stored frozen for four to six months, and will ripen at room temperature. If stored in this way, the baby kiwi should be kept separate from other fruits, which may cause ripening and ultimate decay. When looking for baby kiwi fruit in the grocery store, select fruits that are firm and free of soft spots or moisture. They should be mottled green in color, and may have some black specks as well.
To cultivate baby kiwis, select an area of the garden that can accommodate a sturdy trellis for the vines. Prepare the soil with compost and mulch and space out seedlings well. Baby kiwis can also be grafted onto existing kiwi plants, and they tend to produce better fruit if grown from a graft or cutting rather than from seed. Baby kiwi vines should be pruned in summer and winter to promote fruit production, and the plant should also be trained to the trellis. The fruit will mature in early fall, and if allowed to vine ripen, it should be stored in a cool place and eaten within one week.