Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kiwi, Malabar, leaves, straw?

It's been week of surprises. The nicest was the discovery of an enormous crop of Arctic kiwi. They are scheduled to ripen in "late October." Last year they were later (which is nice!) and more abundant than I had ever had before. I harvested dozens of little fuzz-free, pit-free fruit that look like olives but taste and look inside like the kiwi you buy in the store. The disappointment was that, although the
books said they keep in the refrigerator for the winter, they developed unappetizing fuzz before too long.
This year there are hundreds! They are yummy, and I don't want them to develop fuzz. I soon found it is possible to eat too many in one day, so I now have the pleasant project of giving them away while they are still good. Of course, I am trying to balance my generosity with my own desire to eat them as long as possible myself with comfort. Is that a parable for the challenge of life? Anyway, it's fun to watch people's eyes pop.

I bought them mail order from Gurney's, two little plants less than 6" tall. One was tied in a pink ribbon and the other had a blue ribbon. The hard part of raising kiwi is constructing a sturdy enough frame for the weight of their vines. We were reminded of Biblical times. Each February I cut the vines that bore this year, and keep as much as I can of the other new vines. There isn't too much competition from other garden activities in February.

The big disappointment of the week is not finding straw after Halloween on curbs. Any suggestions of where we can scavenge it? Our strawberries have been much better since they spent their winters covered by straw. Fred suggested today maybe we could buy straw. What a profligate idea!
We are collecting leaves without trouble this week. We have to go to Glen Ridge for leaves in plastic bags, which are needed to cover carrots, parsnips, and Jerusalem artichokes so we can harvest them all winter. Paper bags, abundant now in Montclair and Bloomfield, are adequate for mulching and composting, although somewhat less convenient. They are MUCH better for the commercial composters who receive the Montclair leaves, so we understand why the cherished plastic bags are so
hard to find.
One of you asked if I shred leaves. No, they are fine "as is." Oak leaves compost less quickly than the others and so should be avoided by beginners if possible, but I don't mind them any more.

Someone who picked up some Malabar seeds from the left of my front porch wondered what you do with them. I just let them dry with no particular technique except removing them from the stems. Then I put them in potting soil next February or March. They take about 3 weeks to germinate and another 3 or more weeks to grow beyond an inch high. I suspect they are rare because they tax American ability to endure delayed gratification.
But they surely are good from mid-summer until the first cold. Mine died last week (in the sense of developing spots I don't want to eat), but this week they have started new, pretty leaves that are growing at a remarkable rate. We may even eat another fresh meal from them -- despite the fact that the moon is full this week. The hard part of Malabar is being sure they have a fence or trellis to climb when they take off. My peas leave the perfect fence when they die in mid-July, but there are many ways to provide for peas and Malabar. They won't knock over your trellis
as my kiwi vines did the first one I bought for them. (It was a gentle breeze and then "crack!" The $100 trellis was broken on the ground.)
There are plenty more Malabar seeds to give away. If you plan to come, let me know and I'll put still more to the left of my front door. Be sure to bring a plastic bag or baggie because they have a red "dye" that you don't want to get on your fingers or upholstery.


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