Avocado (Persea americana) is a tree native to Mexico and Central America, and classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel. Avocado or alligator pear as refer to the fruit, botanically a large berry that contains a single seed.
Avocados are commercially valuable and are cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates throughout the world. They have a green-skinned, fleshy body that may be pear-shaped, egg-shaped, or spherical. Commercially, they ripen after harvesting. Avocado trees are partially self-pollinating and often are propagated through grafting to maintain a predictable quality and quantity of the fruit.
In the Garden
One can use the avocado seed, wash it. Use 3 toothpicks to suspend it broad-end down over a water-filled glass to cover about an inch of the seed. Put the glass in a warm place out of direct sunlight and replenish water as needed. You should see the roots and stem start to sprout in about 2-6 weeks. When the stem is 6-7 inches long, cut it back to about 3 inches. When the roots are thick and the stem has leaves again, plant it in a rich humus soil in a 10-1/2″ diameter pot, leaving the seed half exposed. Water it frequently with an occasional deep soak. Soil should be moist but not saturated. And don’t forget, the more sunlight, the better. If the plant turns yellow, you may be over-watering; let it dry out for a few days. If leaves turn brown and fry at the tips, too much salt has accumulated in the soil. Let water run freely into the pot and drain for several minutes. When the stem is 12 inches high, cut it back to 6 inches to encourage the growth of new shoots.
Remember that avocado trees do best at moderately warm temperatures (60-85F) with moderate humidity. They can tolerate temperatures, once established, to around 32-28F with minimal damage. Avoid freezing temperatures. Plant your tree from March through July. The avocado trees can’t take up water very well when young. Plant in a non-lawn area, and away from sidewalks. And if you can, plant your tree in a spot protected from wind and frost. Remember, full sun is best. Dig a hole as deep as the current root ball and just as wide as the width plus a little extra so you can get your hands into the hole to plant it. The avocado is a shallow-rooted tree with most of the feeder roots in the top 6″ of soil, so give it good aeration. Its root system is very sensitive and great care should be taken not to disturb the root system when transplanting. If the tree is root-bound, however, loosen up the soil around the edges and clip the roots that are going in circles.
Avocado trees like the soil pH around 6-6.5. If you have a heavy clay soil, elevate the tree in a mound for better drainage. Make the mound 1-2 feet high and 3-5 feet around. The sooner the roots get out into the bulk soil, the better the tree will do.
Typically trees need to be watered 2-3 times a week. As the roots reach out into the bulk soil, more water can be applied and frequency of watering diminishes to about 1 time per week by the end of a year. When watering the tree, soak the soil well, then, allow it to dry out somewhat before watering again. Of course, like most plants, you don’t want the tree to get too dry! The rule of thumb for mature trees is about 20 gallons of water a day during the irrigation season. Seedlings will require quite a bit less water, of course.
Mulch with cocoa bean husks and shredded tree bark will do the work. Choose something that is woody and about 2 inches in diameter. Fertilize your young avocado trees with1/2 -1 pound of actual Nitrogen per tree per year. You can spread it out over several applications as long as it totals 1/2 to 1 pound of Nitrogen. The other important nutrient for avocado trees is Zinc. Ordinary home fertilizer for houseplants normally should work.
In the Kitchen
Using a small, sharp knife, run a blade all the way around the avocado, from top to bottom. Make sure you cut in till the blade meets the stone. Twist the two halves in opposite directions to separate them. To remove the stone, ease it out with a spoon or, using a firm, swift action, stick the length of a sharp knife into it and lever out. Avocado flesh discolours rapidly on exposure to the air: to prevent this, brush with lemon juice. Once ripe, keep them in the fridge.
Avocados are best used raw, not cooked. Halve, stone and serve with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or vinaigrette, or fill the hollow with prawn cocktail. Mash with tomatoes, garlic and chillies to make the classic Mexican dip, guacamole; or slice thinly with tomato and mozzarella drizzled with olive oil to make an Italian tricolore salad.
Some great recipes made from avocado:
- Corn and Avocado Salad
- Avocado Salad
- Avocado Salsa
- Avocado Dip