Iowa may be known for growing corn and soybeans but a project underway in southeast Iowa is focusing on fruits, like kiwis and bananas, that are more closely associated with more tropical climates. Charlie Knoles is a senior in sustainable agriculture at Maharshi ) University in Fairfield, where he’s creating what he calls a fruit forest.Knoles says many people don’t realize Iowa has one of the highest numbers of native fruit trees and fruit-producing species in the world, saying, “There’s literally hundreds of different types of fruit trees you can plant in Iowa.” Knoles, who is a native of Australia, says he’s creating a fruit-opia near campus which will include all sorts of fruits that will sound rather foreign to most Iowans. He’s planting “prairie bananas” which resemble green mangoes but taste like a combination of bananas, pineapples and strawberries. He’s also planting hearty kiwis, gooseberries, raspberries and “all sorts of things people never heard of.” Two fruits in particular may sound familiar — kiwis and bananas — but they’re not what you might think. The hearty kiwis are native to China where it’s often very cold so they grow and survive very well in Iowa. There’s also the prairie banana which isn’t actually a banana but a Native American fruit that grows wild in many parts of Iowa.
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