Avocados are one of those peculiar fruits that is more often treated as a vegetable. Served sliced in sandwiches or on salads, mashed and spiced to use as dip, or just eaten out of its skin with a spoon, the avocado is nutritious as well as delicious. Chock full of vitamin C, antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, the avocado is sometimes touted as being The Superfood among superfoods. While it does have a distinctive flavor, it can be spiced in a variety of ways to make it acceptable to almost anyone.
Origin of the Avocado
Avocados are believed to have originated in Central America, primarily in the southern part of Mexico. They are believed to have been an Aztec symbol of love and fertility. Mexico produces around 34% of this popular and nutritious fruit, but it grows readily in other parts of the world as long as its growing requirements are met.
Climate, Soil and Rainfall: Growing Avocados
When it comes to growing, avocados are picky. They love water, but they don’t like wet feet. They grow to be quite a large tree, so they need plenty of space. While Mexico might be the country of origin, and produce more than thirty percent of Avocados consumed in the world, Australians love their avocados, too, and growing avocados is big business.
Before you decide to start an Avocado plantation on Australia, however, it is a good idea to visit the website Plant Health Australia or the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. You can pick up a free PDF on everything you could possibly need to know about growing Avocados, especially in Australia.
The Avocado Growing Kit (available online) is nothing short of amazing. It covers details that range from checking in with your local conservation department before clearing land in preparation for planting your trees, through planning irrigation, the direction for the rows of trees (north-south, if possible, but needs to work with irrigation options), types of root stock, distance apart for planting seedlings and the intensive work required to grow an avocado grove. It even covers the idea that the trees do better if fertilized quarterly rather that bi-annually or annually.
Generally, Avocado trees need a lot of growing space. They are often planted on mounds. In Australia, you need to check for bedrock shelves that might interfere with irrigation or growing roots. They are happiest in a semi-tropical environment, zone 10 or 11, but can be coaxed into growing in zone 9 under the right conditions.
Varieties of Avocado Trees
Haas avocados are the type that is primarily grown in Australia. When ready to pick, it has a dark-green, bumpy skin and is firm to the touch. Originally grown in California, it is well-adapted to Australian climate. All Haas avocados can trace their origins to a single tree planted by Rudolph Haas in 1926. Haas patented the tree in 1935, contracted with a local nurseryman to sell grafts from the tree, and the rest is history.
Fuerte had been the primary commercial avocado grown up until that time. It is a hybrid between a Mexican and Guatemalan avocado. Both types will grow to between twenty-five or thirty-five feet tall. The Furete has smooth green fruits, and does not bear the year around like the Haas.
There is one other significant difference between the two types (which are only two among many). Haas is a type “A” avocado tree. It has female flowers in the morning, and male in the afternoon. The Fuerte is a type “B” avocado tree, which means it has male blossoms in the morning and female in the afternoon. This means that avocado plantations do best when they have a row of type A trees planted next to a row of type B trees. This can take some planning.
In practice, it seems to be a good idea to plant avocado trees in blocks that incorporate more than one variety. In addition to Haas, other type A’s include Reed, Wurtz and Pinkerton. Additional type B’s include: Sheppard, Sharwil and Edronal.
Harvesting and Preparing
For commercial purposes, avocados are harvested while they are still a little bit green. This means that they will be able to stand up to shipping. After purchasing, it is a good idea to let your avocado you have brought home from the store ripen from its dark green color to a deep black. It should be just a little bit soft to the touch. There is a delicate balance between “perfectly ripe” and “over ripe” with an avocado, so it is a good idea to keep a close eye on your fresh fruit.
The Good News
Once established, Avocado trees make beautiful, shady groves that live a long while. With several varieties in your grove, you can count on many years of year-round luscious fruit. Now that avocado has been identified as a ‘superfood’ the probability is that it will be in demand, making it a viable long-term agricultural investment.