Before I talk about Oregon kiwis, I need to be completely honest.
written by Thor Erickson | photos by Megan Morse
When the editors of 1859 Oregon’s Magazine proposed that I write about kiwis, I thought they had lost their minds. Kiwis? In Oregon? Really? I went home and binge-watched “Flight of the Conchords” while I did some research. After a healthy dose of Bret and Jemaine, I soon found that kiwis do grow in Oregon, and are becoming quite popular. Kiwi berries (also known as hardy kiwi, grape kiwi or cocktail kiwi) are smooth-skinned and much smaller in size than their furry cousins from New Zealand. I drove out to Dundee to HB&K farms to pick a few for myself. The strawberry-sized kiwi berries, or Actinidia arguta, are not genetically modified minis, but their own perennial vine, native to Japan, China and Russia.
Kiwi berries have a short growing season, typically September and October. As I filled my pail, I sampled a few of these sweet little fruits. They do not require the peeling of the furry skin that we are used to doing to prepare kiwis. “Just pop ’em in yer mouth!” one of the farmers recommended. In doing so, I tasted the sweet, acidic balance that kiwis are famous for. My head started to flood with ideas of how to use these little beauties—salads, jams, pies. … I know, I just roasted grapes in the last issue, but seriously, roast these kiwis and serve them warm over vanilla ice cream. You’re welcome. Picking kiwis in the hot sun is a lot of work. Time for a cocktail!
The Oregon Kiwitini
MAKES 1 COCKTAIL
3 ounces vodka
3 Oregon kiwi berries
2 teaspoons simple syrup
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the kiwi berries with simple syrup to release the fruit’s juice. Add ice and vodka. Shake well, then strain into a well-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a couple kiwi berries on a cocktail pick.