Looking back while moving forward: As I winnow out a bunch of old photographs, here is a look back.
It is wonderful to be passionate about your work…someone who loves their work really never “works” at all.
We were on a tour out of Tauranga, New Zealand’s third largest port. They took us to a “winery,” actually only a store and restaurant. It used to be all tours took you to cathedrals; now they go to wineries, and this one was even more dull than our 51st church.
But when we stopped at a family run kiwifruit orchard, the owner, Graham Crossman, boarded our bus and said, “my son was supposed to take you around but he isn’t around, so I will do it.”
His ardent fervor soon converted us to the religion of the wholly [holy?] nutritious and flavorful kiwi fruit.
Kiwifruit came to New Zealand as Chinese gooseberries. But when New Zealanders wanted to export to the U.S., the tariff was higher on berries than on fruit. So in the 1960s, they renamed the product Kiwi-fruit.
They grow on vines like grapes but are strung on wires about five feet overhead. Crossman’s 11-acre orchard was one of about 2000 in an area that produced 350,000 tons of export quality – no bruises or cuts – kiwis a year.
The plants roots reach deep into the rich volcanic soil and needs no irrigation to get the large amounts of water they require. Crossman boasted their quality was higher than kiwis from India and China which produce more.
There is one male for each four female plants, but the flowers produce no nectar. Therefore, the farmer leased 35 hives, 80,000 bees altogether, at $160 per hive. He paid a premium to rent his pollinating bees because there is no nectar and no honey is produced; indeed, he had to feed the bees sugar water to keep them alive.
The plants need a frost to kill pests and set the flowers, but a frost in the spring will spoil the fruit. In some areas where late frosts are infrequent, they use helicopters to blow warm air from an inversion layer down onto the plants. He had too many frosts to make the expensive helicopters practical, so he built a U.S, $55,000 fan that rotates every ten minutes circulating the air over his fields.
Through grafting plants over the previous seven years, 25 percent of the crop was now a patented gold fruit. A Rutgers study of 13 common fruits found kiwifruit to be the most nutritious.
They are hand-picked from April through June, and Crossman said the government will not pay the “dole” during picking season because jobs are available if one wants to work. Minimum wage was $13 an hour, and all unemployed must pick.
Click on Photos to enlarge.
I cannot adequately convey the enthusiasm in Graham Crossman’s voice as he took us among the plants. We eagerly consumed kiwi-flavored products at the end of the tour, all sure we would add kiwis to our diets when we got home. Alie and I had scones with kiwi-fruit jam and clotted cream, probably negating the nutrition value of the berries.
Now years later, we eat an occasional kiwi, but it isn’t the same as it was in Graham Crossman’s passionate presence.
Date of our visit 8 Feb 2011