Avocados have become the all-American fruit and is now enjoyed throughout the mainland.
It is likely Persea americana originated in south-central Mexico, but it has a long history of cultivation in South and Central America, likely beginning as early as 5,000 BC. In Colombia and Peru production is the highest, and along with coffee it allows farmers to have an alternative to growing coca leaf. Not only popular in the Americas, you can find them throughout warm regions of Asia, Australia and Africa as well.
Avocado trees are ideally suited for Kona’s winter dry and summer wet weather as well as our well-drained soils. However, they do well in wetter locations as long as the soil is not soggy or poorly drained.
Fat has a bad reputation in today’s health-oriented society, but fats are essential to our well-being. It’s just that some fats are better than others. Avocado is among the most healthy sources.
No Hawaii garden is complete without an avocado tree for shade and fruit. It is unusual in having its stored food chiefly in the form of fat and protein instead of sugar as in nearly all other fruits. The fruit also is very high in vitamins and minerals. It is especially high in phosphorous, Vitamin A, riboflavin and niacin. The fat contains no cholesterol.
The avocado is a native American fruit that was growing wild from southern Mexico to Ecuador and the West Indies at the time of Columbus’ arrival. Just when it was introduced into Hawaii no one really knows, but it has naturalized and is commonly found where conditions are favorable.
Avocados are now found in markets throughout the country at all times of the year. The major Florida crop comes on the market from June-February and the California crop from January-June. Hawaii has fruit all year.
The avocado is borne on large evergreen trees with large, somewhat leathery leaves. This tree is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, but it must be provided with good drainage. Flowers are produced in late winter or spring, and the fruit matures in anywhere from 6-18 months, depending on location and variety. The fruit can be left on the tree for some weeks after it first matures with comparatively little dropping.
The avocado is a little strange when it comes to sex and fertilization. For example, the flower opens and closes twice. At its first opening, every flower behaves as if it were a female flower only, able to be pollinated but not shed pollen. Then it closes for 12-24 hours, and when it opens it is essentially a male flower, shedding pollen but usually no longer in condition to be pollinated. Furthermore, all of the flowers on a tree open and close almost at the same time and all the trees of a given variety behave alike, and their flowers open or close together. This makes interplanting of two or three varieties a very important practice.
Even after more than 100 years of culture in Hawaii, there is no one variety or set of varieties that is wholly satisfactory. Each has its faults and advantages. Sharwil, Yamagata, Murashige, Ohata and Kahaluu are local favorites.
If you are in a hurry, avoid seedlings and grow grafted trees. Seedlings grow quite tall and can take 7-12 years to bear fruit, and then you might not get good quality fruit. Grafted trees are carried at some nurseries. Grafted trees begin to bear in two years and are not as tall.
Avocados can be planted successfully during any season of the year. Frequent irrigations are necessary though, until the tree is established. Remember that avocado trees do not like saline water or soils. Choose a rich, well-drained soil. Strong winds will cause leaves to burn or shed. If your soil is poor, mix in peat moss and well-rotted manure to improve it. Shading and wind protection of newly planted trees is important to give them a good start. Avoid planting avocados near the ocean, exposed to winds and salinity.
Avocados are heavy feeders. The fertilizer should carry a high percentage of nitrogen with a good portion derived from organic sources. Good results are obtained under widely varying treatments. Animal and poultry manures are very beneficial to the avocado, as they add humus and bacteria to the soil besides being valuable as a fertilizer. Be careful not to overfertilize or you might burn roots and leaves.
Newly planted trees should be fertilized at planting time with a 1-1-1 ratio fertilizer that has at least 30% of its nitrogen derived from natural organics. Fertilize according to label directions.
Like most other fruits, you are bound to get bumper crops. Finding ways to incorporate this nutritious fruit into your family’s diet can be a chore.
Although most commonly associated as a salad fruit, the avocado also can be used in soup, as a sandwich spread or dip and in desserts.
Because of its rich, butter-like flavor, the avocado combines well with vinegar or lemon juice and with acidic fruits and vegetables such as pineapple, oranges, grapefruit and tomatoes. A contrast in texture, such as celery, carrots, pepper and watercress, also make appetizing combinations.
There are a number of molded avocado salad recipes available. These molded salads, using plain lime or lemon-flavored gelatin, include fruit combinations, fish or chicken or can be made with cottage cheese or creamed cheese.
A very easy but filling luncheon main dish can be prepared by using half an avocado per person and stuffing it with crab meat, chicken, tuna or shrimp salad. The salad, used as the stuffing, should include a crunchy vegetable such as cabbage, celery or green pepper. Strips of red pimento will add the proper accent.
Avocado tends to darken on standing. To prevent this from happening after cutting, sprinkle with lemon juice or pineapple juice. If using only half an avocado, save the unused portion by keeping it unpeeled, with the seed still imbedded, and wrap tightly in plastic or foil wrap and store in the refrigerator.
The avocado pulp, which is easily prepared in a blender, freezes well if pineapple or lemon juice is added while being pureed. This pulp can be used in making a delicious bread or cake by following a banana bread or cake recipe. The pulp also can be used to prepare a chilled summer soup that calls for 2 cups of condensed cream of chicken soup that has been heated to a smooth consistency and chilled. One-half cup of pureed avocado, 1/2 cup of cold milk and a dash of white pepper complete the soup.
Stay healthy by including high quality local fruits such as avocados in your diet.
An additional use is in the beauty business. Try avocado facials, for your hair and maybe even an avocado bath if you can’t eat all you grew.