Hardy knew ya

Not olives, OK?

Not olives, OK?

The hardy kiwi is a small, grape-looking phenomenon, a bite-sized fruit with a smooth skin and a lot of sweet inside, more than the larger, conventional kiwi. Like many other edibles, it goes by many different names, such as baby kiwi, dessert kiwi or cocktail kiwi. But don’t be fooled: If it’s small and kiwi-esque, it’s a hardy.

And the hardy kiwi is available just south of Sacramento. “I grow them locally in Stockton,” said Paul Gotelli, of Joe Gotelli & Sons in Stockton. “It’s a kiwi hybrid. It’s actually a variety of kiwi. Someone bred out the fuzz and the other attributes [of conventional kiwis] and made it.”

“They originated in Asia,” said Gotelli; the hardy kiwi is actually native to Korea, northern China, Siberia and possibly Japan. “They’re grown in those regions and were brought to Oregon and Washington. They like cooler climates. We keep a shade cloth over them to grow. You don’t pick them right off the vine, you have to condition them.”

The majority of Gotelli’s stock usually ships overseas, but they’ve also been available at local farmers’ markets for the past two years. Gotelli & Sons have stands at the Saturday markets in Elk Grove, Country Club Plaza and Natomas, and on Sundays at the Central Farmers’ Market downtown.

“It’s my fourth year growing them,” Gotelli explained. “We usually ship them to Japan, but this year’s crop wasn’t as successful, so we’re working the farmers’ market circuit.

“I’ve had people look at them and think that they’re olives.”

But you’ll have to pick them up before they’re gone. As Gotelli said, “It’s a monthlong season.” While Gotelli & Sons will be around selling walnuts, the hardy kiwi will disappear fast.