Today en route for Mount Monganui I saw a brown ‘tourist attraction’ sign for Kiwi 360 which did catch my attention as to what this could possibly be. Little did I know that I had driven into the kiwi growing capital of the world. A huge kiwi fruit sign along with the promise of a guided tour of kiwi vines did make me turn off Route 2. For $20 I would get a ride on a cart and get a tour of the kiwi growing areas and why they are so successful in this nook of New Zealand. After a chat with the ladies behind the counter in the gift shop who kindly offered to clean my silver ring which is still suffering the tarnishing power of the muds of Rotorua the tour began.
It is the unique combination of the deep ash soil, temperate climate and high number of sun hours which makes this part of the Bay of Plenty the perfect home for the thousands, perhaps millions, of kiwi vines. 80% of the country’s kiwis are grown in this region. The majority are for export to the world markets. Thousands of migrant workers come to pick the kiwi fruit once a year. The fruit are not yet ready but this ensures that they can remain in the cold stores to keep the international market supplied year round. Two kinds of fruit are grown in this area: the green kiwi which is the hairy one we are the most familiar with and the gold kiwi which has a smooth skin and not so readily available as has a shorter season and cold storage life. The gold and green kiwis have different flowering times so no issue with any cross pollination. Both types require bees to assist with the pollination process and thousands of hives are brought into the vine areas when the flowers begin to open. Both types have male and female plants at a ration of 1:4 with only the female plants producing fruit.
The crop of gold kiwis have already been picked although some have been left on the vine for people visiting. The green kiwis are nearing time for picking. Once picked the fruits are graded for size and weight. Those which do not pass the high standards required for international export are sold on the local market. The largest fruit are shipped to Japan. All the fruit are shipped in cold stores from the nearby port of Tauranga as and when the markets demand.
Quite amazing to think that the hairy kiwi I used to buy in Spinneys in Dubai came from these vines or vines nearby.