Avocado - Delicious and Good for Your Health Fruit

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avocado_cOf the hundreds of avocado varieties, most of the ones grown in Hawaii are of Guatemalan origin (Persea americana). Two other cultivars exist. Mexican avocados are most often grown in California and Mexico and the tropical West Indian race thrives in many tropical parts of the world. All avocados are in the Lauraceae family, which includes bay laurel and cinnamon trees.


by Diana Duff

Some really tasty avocados are fruiting this month in Kona. Here, it seems that at least one variety is ripening every month of the year. Most are buttery and delicious, as well as nutrient rich. Every yard should have a few trees to provide tasty, homegrown nutrition for you, your family and friends.

Of the hundreds of avocado varieties, most of the ones grown in Hawaii are of Guatemalan origin (Persea americana). Two other cultivars exist. Mexican avocados are most often grown in California and Mexico and the tropical West Indian race thrives in many tropical parts of the world. All avocados are in the Lauraceae family, which includes bay laurel and cinnamon trees.

Avocado fruit varies in size and may be round, pear shaped or oblong. The skin may vary from pliable to woody and smooth to rough. The color ranges from green to greenish yellow and darker to reddish-purple, purple or black. The flesh is usually greenish yellow to bright yellow when ripe and buttery in consistency, though some varieties can develop fibrous flesh as they ripen. The single seed in preferred varieties takes up 10 percent or less of the fruit's weight. Varieties also vary in moisture and oil content. Tasters usually prefer ones with higher oil content, which gives the fruit a buttery flavor.

Through grant funding, local horticulturalist Ken Love has recently collected and photographed samples of some of the many varieties that exist on the Big Island. His poster is available through Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers and can be viewed at hawaiifruit.net/Avocado.pdf.

Two earlier posters created by Love show varieties grown in Kona. More than half of the commercially grown avocados in Hawaii are Sharwil, a Mexican and Guatemalan cross. The green-skinned fruit usually matures in winter and early spring, has small seeds and greenish-yellow flesh with a rich, nutty flavor.

Greengold and Murashige are other green-skinned cultivars recommended by the University of Hawaii for commercial planting. Kahaluu, Yamagata and Beshore also produce delicious fruit in West Hawaii and the black-skinned Linda is another tasty favorite. Hass, which is very popular and widely grown in California, does not produce as well here and is less often grown in our location.

Though avocados can be grown at nearly every elevation in Hawaii, they do best between 100 feet above sea level up to 3,000 feet. The trees prefer higher locations with good rainfall that keeps the soil cool and moist but has good drainage. Avocado trees that are over- watered or that sit in wet earth are subject to disease and failure.

The fruit is loaded with nutrients, as well as dietary fiber. Avocados provide vitamin A, B-complex, - and E, as well as magnesium and folate. It contains more potassium per ounce than bananas. It is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat and research has shown that avocados combined with other food can improve the absorption of nutrients in other fruit, like tomatoes. Avocados provide 18 amino acids, plus seven fatty acids, including Omega 3 and 6 and they contain more protein than cow's milk, about 2 percent per edible portion. Four ounces of avocado provide about 200 cholesterol-free calories and contain primarily monounsaturated fats.

The smooth, buttery consistency and rich flavor of avocados make them a popular salad fruit. Avocados make delicious guacamole and can also be used as sandwich spreads. Avocado paste can also be used to make an ice cream. Avocado oil can be used for cooking and in the preparation of sauces and marinades. Avocado oil is an ingredient in skin and hair care products.

In Japan, avocados are often eaten with soy sauce or grated horseradish. Europeans often serve avocados as an appetizer with mayonnaise or salad dressing or filled with seafood cocktail.

Though it is popular in temperate climates to propagate avocados by suspending seeds in water and waiting until roots and stems form then planting them in pots, here in the tropics we are more likely to discourage seeds from sprouting as we know that most fruit is the result of cross pollination and the seed is not likely to produce a plant true to the seed's fruit. This is why we have so many "weed" varieties growing in South Kona. If you want a known variety, it is best to find a tree of that variety grafted onto a thriving rootstock. Most nurseries in Hawaii carry several grafted avocado varieties.

Though local nurseries don't usually carry trees with several grafted varieties, grafting other avocado varieties on the same root stock can provide an interesting assortment of fruit and nearly year-round production.

Avocado trees can get up to 50 feet tall over time. Careful pruning can ensure that they remain in good range for picking. It is also advisable to plant your avocados near other avocado trees to optimize the pollination possibilities.

Hawaii Today

Pollination of avocado flowers is usually done by honeybees and other insects. Avocado flowers appear on terminal panicles and each one opens twice. At the first opening, they are functionally female (pollen receptive) and at the second, functionally male (pollen shedding). Two types of flowers exist. Type A opens first in the morning, closes at midday and reopens in the afternoon of the following day. Type B opens first in the afternoon, closes in the evening and reopens the following morning. The presence of both types of trees is important to ensure good cross-pollination. A thousand flowers may open daily on a tree during the blooming season. A mature avocado tree may bear up to 1 million flowers in one season.

Though many diseases and insects can attack avocado trees, maintaining healthy moist soil with good drainage can help your trees stay healthy and discourage most serious pests. Mulching the root zone when the tree is young will help maintain the proper soil moisture and temperature while enriching the soil. As the tree gets older, it will drop many leaves, which make excellent mulch if left in place. Applications of a balanced fertilizer or working in some compost will help with growth and fruit production. More information on growing avocados in Hawaii can be found at ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/HC-4.pdf. Information about avocado trees, fruit and recipes abound on the Web.

Decide which varieties you like and plant some trees. If times get tough, avocados are a healthy staple for a spare table. In good times, they are a wonderful taste treat.


www.westhawaiitoday.com

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