Seth Wannemuehler's quest:

University of Minnesota tries to big up the kiwiberry

Seth Wannemuehler, University of Minnesota researcher, wants to make the kiwiberry Minnesota’s next big fruit. The green berries, closely related to  the kiwi, are however hairless, approximately the size of a ping pong ball and ready to pop in your mouth, similar to a grape.

But according to Wannemuehler, the kiwiberry’ taste is what truly sets it apart: a range of sweet, tart and tropical flavors that are ripe for the mass market.

Kiwiberries are among several delicious projects underway at the University’s fruit research program, a collection of about a dozen researchers who breed, produce and improve fruit in Minnesota. From creating new varieties of apples -like the recently released First Kiss- bumping up berry production and breeding grapes suitable for the Minnesota climate, fruit researchers at the University carry on a flavorful tradition that’s been cultivated over generations.

Kiwiberries are a relatively new addition to the program. This June, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture gave the program over $91,000 to develop and breed kiwiberries as a commercial crop that could land on grocery store shelves in the not-too-distant future.

But explains that most Americans aren’t familiar with kiwiberries and the limited supply of U.S.-produced kiwiberries typically come from the West Coast. Wannemuehler is hoping to change that.

“In this day and age, people are more and more interested in what fruits are outside the apple-banana-orange supermarket kind of fruits,” Wannemuehler said. “One of my overall lifetime goals is to try to work to create more diversity in the marketplace for fruits.”

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