Uli and David Shouse don't have to drive to a grocery store to stock up on exotic kiwi fruit.
They simply need to walk to their Evans driveway where kiwi vines heavy with the brown, fuzzy fruit cover a pergola.
"I knew they were going to have really fuzzy leaves, which I like," said Mrs. Shouse, of the fruit vines reminiscent of those grown by her family in her native Germany. "I just liked the way the vine looked because it's kind of rough fuzzy leaves. They are real pretty. I didn't expect fruit."
Mrs. Shouse said she bought a male and two female plants - both sexes are needed for pollination - three years ago from an area nursery because she thought the vine would look nice trained up a brick wall of her Evans home in Rivermont subdivision.
Having more than just vines grow, though, isn't a common site for this area, said Charles Phillips, Columbia County's cooperative extension agent.
"The vines do pretty good around here. I've seen people that have had good luck growing the vines," Phillips said, adding that they are fairly disease resistant and can stand temperatures as low as 10 degrees. "They will get some fruits here and there, but just to be loaded with them, I've never seen a lot (of plants) that have just been loaded."
Kiwi vines were originally grown in China and are now primarily grown for commercial use mainly in New Zealand, but also in other countries including the United States. Kiwi is packed with healthy vitamins and minerals with roughly double the amount of vitamin C and potassium as a Florida orange per 100 grams of edible fruit, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
"They are vitamin bombs," Mrs. Shouse said.
The Shouses said they have not counted the ripening fruit that began as tiny fuzzy buds after blossoms dropped off in the spring, but they estimate they have between 200 and 300 of the fruit hanging from the protected underside of the pergola.
"We're trying to figure out what to do with it all," Mr. Shouse said, adding that from his research, the fruit should finish ripening in the next two months. "They are everywhere. When they started out as little bitty things I was looking and I went into the house and said, 'If that stuff is kiwi, we're going to have a lot. We're going to be in a heap of trouble.'"
Mrs. Shouse said she enjoys kiwi simply by cutting it in half and eating the inside flesh with a spoon. But she plans to give away a lot of the fruit and make jams and jellies in addition to enjoying some it fresh.
The Shouses - both of whom are abstracters who research property histories for attorneys - admit they are not master gardeners and don't take much credit for the vines' vigorous growth and abundant fruit.
"We're not really kiwi smart. We just stuck it in the ground," Mrs. Shouse said, adding that she doesn't like to fertilize things she plans to eat, instead preferring natural remedies. "Every now and then when there is a period with little rain and the leaves look wilted, we give it some water. But other than that, we don't prune it. We don't fertilize it. We don't do anything."
The vines were originally trained to grow up chains attached to stakes in the ground and the house gutters on the other end. But the couple built the large pergola in spring 2005 to secure the growing weight of the large vines.
"It about pulled down my gutters," Mr. Shouse said.
This year is the first time the vines have produced fruit, which is typical of kiwi plants. But with so many plants that are not native to this area, the right location can make all the difference, Phillips said.
"That's one of the things when growing any kind of plant, if you can find the right spot, they'll grow."
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