Tropical Gardening: Bumper avocado crop good food source in times like these

  • Courtesy of CYNTHIA FURCHER Nutritious and abundant avocado fruit supply Hawaii families with healthy, no-cholesterol fat, protein, minerals and vitamins. Avocado is commonly used in salads but also in soups, ice cream, pies and a variety of other tempting dishes.

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.

Then there is the avocado. Avocados are among the most healthy sources of fat, and no Hawaii garden is complete without an avocado tree for shade and fruit.

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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 is very high in vitamins and minerals. It is especially high in phosphorous, Vitamin A, riboflavin and niacin. The fat contains no cholesterol.

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 avocado can be left on the tree for some weeks after it first matures with comparatively little dropping.

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. 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 and its pulp, which is easily prepared in a blender and freezes well if lemon or pineapple juice is added, can also 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. For a contrast in texture, mixing it with celery, carrots, pepper and watercress also makes appetizing combinations.

Avocado tends to darken on standing. To prevent this from happening after cutting, sprinkle with lemon or pineapple juice. If using only half an avocado, save the unused portion by keeping it unpeeled with the seed still embedded, and wrap tightly in plastic or foil wrap and store in the refrigerator.

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An additional use is in the the beauty business. You can use avocado for facials, your hair and even an avocado bath if you can’t eat all of what you grew.

Stay healthy by including high-quality local fruits such as avocados in your diet.