Kiwis are somewhat exotic, yet the brown fuzzy fruit native to the Yangtze River valley in China is grown locally on the San Mateo County Coast at Swanton Coastways Ranch, where you can pick the fruit right off the vine through February.
Kiwi season on the Coast is during the winter months, from November when the kiwis are still firm to February when they soften right on the vine. Because of the cool coastal weather, kiwis ripen slowly here, picking up extra-intense flavor. Similar to grape vines, the woody kiwi vines are staked for support. They grow best in moist but well-drained soil. In California, thousands of acres of these trellised vines are grown statewide.
Kiwis have been growing at Coastways Ranch on Highway 1 35 miles south of Half Moon Bay since 1971 when Jon Hudson planted the kiwifruit. Swanton Berry Farm has managed the vines, grown on two acres, since 2003.
The picking is easy: The fruit ($2 a pound) usually blooms at shoulder height, and the sturdy, fuzzy skin can handle the twisting, plucking and tossing into a bucket. Wear shoes you don't mind getting a little muddy and pack an extra layer and waterproof jackets.
Kiwis are both sweet and tart, a nutritional powerhouse. One serving has more potassium than a banana and two times more vitamin C than an orange. Among its other benefits, kiwifruit contains noteworthy amounts of vitamins A and E, beta-carotene, dietary fiber folate, zinc and magnesium.
If you’re wondering what to make with pounds of kiwis, try this simple jam recipe at the end of the article. It really is good, if you like kiwis!
Swanton Coastways Ranch U-Pick kiwis, 640 Highway 1, Pescadero, is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundys from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Recipe for Kiwi Jam:
3 cups chopped peeled kiwi
1 package dry pectin
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
4 cups sugar
1. Combine kiwi, pectin and pineapple juice in a large saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil stirring constantly.
3. Add sugar, stirring until disolved.
4. Return to a rolling boil.
5. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
6. Remove from heat-skim off foam.
7. Ladle into clean hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.