Originally called the Chinese gooseberry, the kiwi was renamed by New Zealand exporters in the 1950s. “Chinese emperors valued them as a delicacy,” said Tim Boughton, who grows kiwifruit at his Auburn farm, Amber Oaks Raspberries. Originally grown in hedges like berries, the New Zealanders moved the kiwi to a trellis system, which produced a larger fruit. Boughton and his wife, Rhonda, have a 4-acre kiwi-vine maze on their 40-acre farm.
“We let the public come pick them from the first of November to the middle part of the month,” said Boughton. Customers can call for appointments and even pick their own fruit on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. “When they’re ripe enough, we pick the whole field and put them in cold storage, where they keep until we sell out,” he said. “We’ve been growing them since 1980, and most of our kiwis average a 10 percent sugar content. They’re usually twice as sweet as store-bought fruits.”
The California Kiwi Commission mandates that the only kiwis sold are round and similar in size and shape, but that’s not the way they come naturally. Because of this, Boughton sells kiwis only at farmers’ markets and to select restaurants.
“We have all different shapes and sizes,” he said. “This is one of the best crops that California has ever had this year; the conditions were perfect.”
Those lucky enough to enjoy local kiwi can also benefit from their nutrition content. They come full of potassium, and “an average kiwi has as much vitamin C as an orange,” said Boughton. “They’ve got fiber. There’s even an enzyme under the skin that acts like an antioxidant; we recommend eating the skin.”