Small green kiwiberries have a big future if more growers jump on board.
“Demand has overridden supply and we’re trying to up our production,” said Lori Hickey, marketing manager of McMinnville, Ore.-based HBF International.
HBF began harvesting on one of its Oregon farms the third week of September, a little earlier than usual, said Hickey, with the bulk of supplies expected through mid-October.
She said the company recently added to its small acreage, but the trees will take several years to mature.
Between February and March, Hurst also imported a small quantity from Chile.
Hickey said the unique green berries, with their edible fuzz-free skin, have reached a tipping point.
“We haven’t heavily marketed them up to now because the supply has been so low and people didn’t know what they were,” she said.
Now that word is getting out and more people are trying the berries, which are eaten like grapes, more retail and club stores are requesting them.
Aside from the kiwiberry’s short season, and the extra care needed to grow it well, bringing the fragile fruit to market at the perfect ripeness is a challenge, Hickey said.
“We usually pick them a little unripe, and let them ripen in the clamshell while in transit, which buys us a little time,” she said. “The softer the berry gets, the better the flavor and sweetness.”
The nutritious berries also grow in New Zealand, said Jason Bushong, division manager for Giumarra Wenatchee, Wenatchee, Wash., a division of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos.
“We’ve done a little from Oregon,” he said. “It’s a niche deal, so there are some pros to that.”
Visalia, Calif.-based grower Doug Phillips, president of Phillips Farms, said he’d consider growing kiwiberries if he could find the ideal variety.
“There are some improved varieties out there but they’re not in California as yet,” Phillips said.