Marin Master Gardeners
University of California
Marin Master Gardeners

Marin IJ Articles

Kiwi, gooseberries and passion fruit offer shade and tasty rewards

March 26, 2011
Jennifer Kinion

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF the vertical space in your garden is a good way to grow more food, and not just beans, peas and squash. Fruiting vines and shrubs will provide seasonal blooms and crops, and your choices are not limited to grapes, blueberries and raspberries. Consider the following plants, which provide shade under arbors or trellises, visually soften the edges of structures with their climbing foliage and provide tasty rewards for the gardener.

Kiwi: There are varieties that are self-fruitful, but most varieties of kiwi require you to plant at least one male plant for pollination, in addition to up to seven fruit-bearing female plants per male. Kiwis do best when grown in well-drained, fertile soil, and they are a good choice for training up fences, trellises and walls. These natives of eastern Asia require regular applications of fertilizer that is high in nitrogen.

Most peiole plant Actinidia deliciosa for fruit production. Female varieties include 'Hayward' and 'Saanichton,' which are often paired with the 'Chico Male' variety for pollination. These varieties of kiwi need approximately 800 hours of chilling (between 32 degrees and 45 degrees) each winter to flower. Gardeners in warmer areas might try cultivars such as 'Elmwood,' 'Dexter' and 'Abbott,' which don't require as much chilling.

The new leaves of Actinidia deliciosa are tinged with a red, hairy texture. It can take up to five years from planting for these kiwis to flower or set fruit, which is produced on wood that is at least a year old. Enjoy the beauty of the large, fuzzy, leaves while you wait. The peeled fruit looks attractive sliced, exposing the ring of dark seeds within. Kiwis are a classic addition to fruit salads and tarts.

Gooseberry: A relative of the currant, the gooseberry is a fast-growing,
deciduous shrub. While there are American (Ribes hirtellum) and European (Ribes grossularia) species, the European species are the preferred choice for culinary use. Among the European varieties, 'Careless,' of British origin, is a prolific plant with yellowish fruit. 'Whitesmith,' another British variety,
produces dense green growth and fruit that is greenish to white. 

Gooseberries have slender stems with dark green, glossy leaves. Most varieties of gooseberry have thorns (although 'Captivator' is nearly thornless), so they are best located where passers-by will not brush
up against their arching stems. Try trellising the plants to make it easier to
avoid thorns during harvest time.

Gooseberries are shallow-rooted plants, preferring good air circulation and cool, moist soils. A layer of mulch can keep the soil cooler and retain moisture during hot spells. These plants need lots of potassium and magnesium, along with moderate amounts of nitrogen throughout the growing season. Watch for aphids and control them by blasting
them off of affected plants with a spray of water. Early spring brings
self-fertile flowers on year-old wood, followed by fruit in late spring to
summer.

How to use gooseberries? The flavor is described as somewhat tart. A classic British dessert called gooseberry fool, includes fresh gooseberries that are cooked with sugar then cooled and mixed with cream. Gooseberries are also used in Indian cuisine as a component of pickles and
chutneys, and some folks enjoy eating them fresh off the vine.

Passion fruit: Go exotic and turn heads with the out-of-this-world blooms of the passion fruit (Passiflora edulis). While its relative Passiflora incarnata is grown primarily for ornamental purposes, Passiflora edulis can yield aromatic, guava-like fruit for the table. These vigorous, subtropical natives of South America need the support of a trellis, chain link fence, or other structure to support sprawling vines that bear evergreen, three-lobed leaves. The plant blooms during warm months, with fragrant flowers sporting five sepals, five petals and a fringe of rays. Five stamens with rather large anthers lend to the distinctive shape of each bloom.

Purple varieties, such as 'Edgehill,' 'Black Knight,' and 'Kahuna,' are self-fruiting. Yellow varieties are also available, and while 'Golden Giant' and 'Brazilian Golden' bear larger blossoms and fruit, the fruit is typically described as more tart in flavor than the purple varieties. Yellow varieties also require cross-pollination, which you can achieve by practicing hand pollination. If your garden tends to attract carpenter bees, you might discover them pollinating your passion fruit flowers.

Passion fruit needs fast-draining, rich soil that is not too high in salts. To promote vigorous growth and overall health, provide regular applications of fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and potassium. Keep a close eye for snails, which can strip a passion fruit plant quickly if left unchecked. Round fruits will develop and ripen from summer to fall. Passion fruit can be stored fresh or frozen, and due to the pulpy, seedy nature of the flesh, it is typically juiced. Try blending the juice with citrus juices. It adds a unique flavor to tropical cocktails.

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