The challenge of growing one of the world’s ‘super fruits’ is reaping rewards for Australia’s only commercial grower. Margaret Megard reports.
On a small Victorian orchard overlooking the Dandenong Ranges, Henry Bartosiewicz grows Australia's only commercial crop of the ‘blueberries of the future’, kiwiberries.
Director of Kiwiberry Australia, Bartosiewicz started growing the fruit on his 23 acre farm in the 1990s. He was interested in growing a bush fruit and once he learned about the small berry's health benefits and taste, he imported plants.
After lots of trial and error, he now supplies Coles and Woolworths. “It takes about seven years before you reach the full production,” he says.
“Growing them in Australia is challenging because of the weather. The fruit originated in the sub-arctic circle, so it is more suitable to a colder climate up to minus 32 degrees. Obviously the heat we have here, especially recently, is not the best for the fruit,” he says.
The berries have a short growing season from late February to mid-May. In a good year, one bush produces 25 to 30kg of fruit, Bartosiewicz says. He doesn't use any chemical sprays and grows three different varieties to cover early, mid and late seasons.
“If they go into a fridge or coolroom after the fruit has been picked, they can last probably up to a month. We tend to pick them when they are still relatively hard and then just like a normal kiwi fruit they ripen up in the fridge,” he says.
Bartosiewicz says that a small serving of kiwiberries provides more than the recommended daily intake of numerous vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.
“Kiwiberries are quickly being recognised as one of the most nutritious fruits found in nature due to their high content of vitamins, carotenoids, minerals and antioxidants.
“Research into their health benefits is gaining momentum and being highly backed by the health industry as well as the food processing industry in terms of development of dietary supplements and medications,” Bartosiewicz says.