Avocados, sometimes called alligator pears because of their bumpy skins, are a favorite snack time fruit. Many school children, apartment dwellers and others know the trick of sticking three toothpicks into an avocado seed and letting it sprout in a jar. Unfortunately, that method will usually result in a beautiful houseplant, but not in a fruiting avocado tree. Why would you want a fruiting avocado tree? First, because avocados are delicious. They can be served as dip, as slices on a sandwich or as a between meals snack, dipped out of the skin with a spoon. Second, because if there is a superfood on the planet, the avocado is it.
Avocadoes are a super source for vitamin K, Folate, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, and vitamin E. It also contains traces of iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, as well as vitamins A, B2, and B3. Although it is high in fat, it is a good kind of fat: oleic acid, the same kind of monounsaturated fatty acid as is contained in olive oil. Avocadoes contain no cholesterol or salt. They are high in fiber, and are believed to actually reduce cholesterol. If that were not enough, they are also high in antioxidants. They are believed to help with managing arthritis, and their high fiber content helps you feel full, while the nutrients satisfy, so you might actually eat less. That is good news for people trying to lose weight without marginalizing health.
Growing Your Own
The real answer to “Who would want to grow an avocado in your back yard?” is “Just about everybody.” The problem is that avocados are picky about their habitat. If you have outdoor freezing weather, your avocado tree is not going to do well at all. Native to the southernmost parts of Mexico, these lovely trees prefer temperatures between sixty to eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit. That means a tropical or Mediterranean type climate. In the United States, they can be grown in southern Florida, the south part of Texas or Nevada or maybe in Louisiana. In Australia, they can be cultivated in the Atherton Tablelands, south east Queensland or along the north coast of New South Wales. Avocados are now grown in many regions around the world where the outdoor temperature stays within a range that the mature trees will tolerate.
How Long from Seed to Fruit?
To grow your own guacamole, you will need patience. It takes between 13 to 15 years for an avocado tree to mature if grown from seed. The mature trees will reach a height between 35 to 50 feet, so plant a good-sized space for your tree. If you live in an area where outdoor temperatures are not within your plants picky preferred range, your only hope is an old-style orangery – a greenhouse that is big enough to accommodate a full-sized tree. That’s a lot of greenhouse!
And…there’s more. For best fruiting, it is a good idea to have two avocado trees. While one tree will have both male and female blooms, they don’t all bloom at the same time. The pollination window is a small one, only a couple of days, so you are more likely to get fruit if you have two trees.
Grafting: The Shortcut to Fruit
Most commercial avocado trees are grown from grafts of mature trees onto a viable root stock. These grafts will bear fruit within three or four years, and at a much smaller size than a tree grown from seed. So maybe that greenhouse wouldn’t have to be so huge after all, and you won’t have to wait until your toddler is a teen to harvest the first fruit. Grafted trees are the kind that are sold by most nurseries, so it is not difficult to go purchase a pair.
There are many ways to enjoy an avocado, but guacamole is an all-time favorite. It begins, of course, with a ripe avocado. There is a delicate moment with avocados between perfectly ripe and time to compost. If you have to purchase your alligator pears at the supermarket, one way to have your guacamole when you want it is to purchase avocados in stages of ripeness – perfectly ripe for right now, a little bit ripe for tomorrow, and pretty green for later one. You can encourage your avocado to ripen quickly by putting it in a brown paper bag with a banana.
Cut the ripe avocado in half, set the pit aside for growing because it is fun and they make a pretty house plant. Scoop out the insides with a spoon, and discard the skin. Mash the avocado, then add your preferred selection of seasonings. There are a lot of ways to make guacamole, but one obligatory ingredient is lime juice. You can add a little or a lot, but lime juice makes it tangy. Other optional ingredients can include: chopped fresh tomatoes, chopped onion, peppers (hot or mild—your choice), cilantro (yum!), and a dash of cumin for that spicy flavor without excess heat.
Mix it all together and serve as fresh as possible. Guacamole doesn’t keep very well, even in an excellent refrigerator. Chances are though, you won’t have to worry about that. A good guac gets eaten up right away, and the guests will be looking for more!