Table of Contents
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Avocado varieties
- 3 Planting avocado
- 4 Growing avocados
- 5 Diseases
- 6 Pests
- 7 Avocado uses
- 8 History and facts
Avocado (lat. Persea americana Mill.) belongs to the laurel family (Lauraceae). It is most widespread in the tropics of America, but it can also be grown in the Mediterranean and coastal climate. It is classified as a southern or subtropical fruit, same as pomegranate, pineapple, banana, date, guava, kiwi, coconut, mango and papaya.
It is most often consumed raw and is one of the few fruits that are rich in fat, which makes it suitable for preparing various sauces. Apart from growing fruits, avocado can also be used as an ornamental plant outdoors during the summer, while in winter it should be brought indoors because otherwise, it freezes.
It is an evergreen tropical tree, erect, with a broad canopy and can grow up to 20 m (65 ft) in height. On a short stalk, it has oblong elliptical leaves with leathery texture from 8 to 40 cm (3 to 16 in) long. The flowers are clustered in dense greenish inflorescences. Depending on the variety, the fruit is about 10 cm in size, with a smooth or rough rind, and a large two-part seed.
Avocado is considered one of the healthiest fruits due to its high content of healthy fats, fiber, iron, potassium, copper, calcium and vitamins C and E groups. In addition to fruits, avocado oil is also used, which is a healthier alternative to sunflower or olive oil.
Avocado is an oily, edible fruit that grows on a tree common in the American tropics. In 1763, the word "avocado" was altered by folk etymology influence from an earlier Spanish word "avocado" meaning "lawyer". The Latin source as advocate (n.)), from proto-Nahun *pawa "avocado", from Aztecan Nahuatl ahuakatl "avocado" which also means "testicle" due to the resemblance. As a color-name, it was first attested in 1945 from Mexican Spanish "alligato" and "alvacata", from the English corruption alligator (pear).
Avocados originate from Central America and Mexico, where the indigenous Nahua people found them. At that time, the fruit was called the Nahuatl word "āhuacatl" which means "testicles." Scholars think the Nahua chose that specific name because of its resemblance and as it was considered an aphrodisiac. It is also believed that the Nahua probably used the anatomical definition as slang, similar to how we use the word "nuts" today.
When the Spanish conquistadors came, they changed the name of the fruit to "aguacate". The Americans had a hard time saying that word resulting in tough selling, so the marketers tried using the words "alligator pear" and "avagato pear". Eventually, over the years, they settled on the word "avocado."
More than 80 varieties of avocados are known, which are classified into four categories: Mexican, Guatemalan, West Indian and hybrids.
Originates from Mexico and is more resistant than other species as it can tolerate temperatures down to -6°C (21°F). The leaves have a characteristic odor reminiscent of anise. The fruits are smaller, and the average weight is 90 to 240 g (3 - 8 oz) with thin and smooth skin. The most famous varieties of this category are Blake, Duke, Mexicola, Leucadia, Puebla and Snell.
Originates from Guatemala and has large fruits with a thick and rough rind. It can withstand temperatures up to -4°C (25°F). The most famous varieties are Benik, Carlsbad, Colorado, Linda, Lyon, Mayapan, Prince and Sharpless.
West Indian avocado
It has large fruits with smooth and hard skin and is the most sensitive to cold. It can withstand temperatures up to -2°C (28°F).
Avocado hybrids are made by crossing the Mexican and Guatemalan avocados, and the best-selling on the market are Hass, which is recognizable by the dark, almost black color of the fruit with a rough rind, and Fuerte, which has a smooth and thin green rind.
For the successful development of the plant, it is necessary to ensure adequate growing conditions, and as avocado is a tropical plant, it cannot grow well on all soil types and climatic conditions.
No crop will harm the growth and development of avocados in any way, but its good companions are spices such as basil, chamomile, chives, coriander, thyme, dill, marjoram, rosemary, parsley, stevia and mint because they are natural insect repellent.
From fruit crops choose raspberries, kiwis, blueberries and strawberries as they will suit avocado best, as for the vegetable crops go with leeks, garlic and onions. You can also plant flowers such as marigold and lavender.
Planting from seed
Before starting the procedure, it is necessary to determine the upper (slightly pointed) and lower part of the seed from which the roots develop. The seed should be pierced with toothpicks in three places so that they are at equal distances from each other and a slight angle downwards. Thus, they serve as holders, allow the lower half to be in the water. After the seed is pierced, it is necessary to immerse it halfway in a glass of water, which should be placed in a sunny place, preferably on a window sill.
It is necessary to change the water every 5 to 7 days to prevent the accumulation and multiplication of bacteria and fungi. It can take 2 to 6 weeks to grow the first shoot. During germination, the seed will crack and the brown membrane on the outside of the seed will peel off.
The crack will deepen over time to the lower part where the roots develop a branch while shoot will appear at the top. When the plant reaches a height of 15 cm (6 in), it needs to be shortened to approx. 7 cm (3 in) which encourages new growth. When it grows again to 15 cm (6 in), the avocado should be planted in soil enriched with humus, in a pot with a diameter of 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in). It is necessary to leave the upper side of the seed out of the ground and place the pot in a sunny place. At this stage, regular watering is necessary, but care should be taken in order to prevent accumulation of water.
After the plant grows to 30 cm (12 in) in height, it is necessary to remove two sets of leaves which will encourage the growth and development of new leaves and shoots. This procedure should be repeated each time after the plant grows by about 15 cm (6 in).
Before sale, the trees are first grown in a nursery and can bear fruit in 3 to 4 years, especially grafted seedlings. By grafting, you can start the cultivation of different varieties on the same tree. Before fruit development, you’ll notice the appearance of yellow flowers gathered in clusters of which a large number perish, while only some will be used to pollinate. After pollination, fruit development will start between April and August.
The optimum germination temperature is between 18 to 25°C (64 to 77°F), and after the development of the first leaves, keep the average room temperature at 20 to 25°C (68 to 77°F) which will be sufficient for its successful development. If the plant is grown in the garden, it is necessary to bring it indoors before the onset of low temperatures, as the plant will freeze and decay.
Avocado is a tropical plant which means it needs moisture and does not tolerate dry air. When growing indoors, it is necessary to spray the leaves with water once a week. Watering is needed two to three times a week, and after the first year of cultivation, it is enough to water it once a week because there is a possibility of water accumulation, which causes root rot. Before the second watering, it is necessary to completely dry the soil. Adult trees require large amounts of water, approximately 75 l (20 gal) per day during the irrigation season.
No successful avocado soil is required for successful cultivation. The soil must be well permeable rich in organic matter because it does not tolerate water retention. Avocados do not tolerate acidic soils and can be planted in a mixture of soil for flowers, sand and peat.
Best time to plant
Avocados should be planted from March to June. It is necessary to carefully determine the time of planting because if planted at temperatures below 18°C (64°F), the seeds will not germinate, but if planted during the summer, there is a possibility of sun damage because avocados do not absorb water well at the beginning of their development.
Preparing the soil for planting
When growing in a pot, it is necessary to prepare a well-drained soil, so that pebbles are placed on the bottom of the pot to allow unimpeded drainage of water. Place soil rich in humus on pebbles.
Growing avocados in the orchard
For bigger avocado cultivation, it is necessary to plant seedlings in order to make production more profitable and to get fruit earlier. Seedlings are more difficult to obtain on the market and are imported from warmer areas. Also, care should be taken to procure seedlings that are more resistant to lower temperatures.
Growing avocados in a pot
For own production, the most profitable is growing from the seed. After the growth of the shoot, the seed should be planted in a pot with a diameter of about 10 cm and placed in a sunny place. Regular watering is required. Avocados tolerate growing in pots well, so the height of the tree can be controlled and moved during adverse conditions.
In warmer climates, the most common is the cultivation of avocados in pots, as an ornamental plant, where it is necessary to provide sufficient water, fertile soil and a sunny position. Irrigation is recommended for growing in plantations because large amounts of water are needed and there is no danger of stagnation. In addition, it is recommended to plant more avocado trees so that they can pollinate each other. After pollination, fruits develop faster, usually from April to August after which growth slows down until it reaches the final size.
As a tropical plant, avocados require moist soil, but there should be no accumulation of water due to root rot. In the first year, watering is needed 2 to 3 times a week, while in subsequent years, the frequency of watering can be reduced to once a week. The soil should be dried before the next watering. Growing in plantations requires large amounts of water because the adult plant needs up to 75 l (20 gal) of water per day during the irrigation season.
When planting, it is necessary to enrich the soil with organic fertilizer, preferably humus or compost. Two to three weeks after planting, the first amount of mineral fertilizer can be applied, which will stimulate growth and provide the plant with the necessary microelements. The avocado tree needs to be fertilized three times in the first year of cultivation, in spring, summer and autumn, while during winter the plant is in the dormancy phase and does not need to be fertilized. Avocados should be fertilized with nitrogen around trees, after which watering is needed for the nitrogen to reach the root zone.
Maintenance and care
For successful cultivation, in addition to regular watering and fertilizing, avocados need to be provided with large amounts of indirect light and transplanted into a larger pot as needed, preferably during the spring. In addition, maintenance is required in the form of pruning and protection from diseases and pests.
To prevent excessive elongation of the tree, it is recommended to cut off the tops. After planting in a pot, when the avocado reaches a height of 25 cm (10 in) it needs to be cut in half, which encourages rapid growth, after which only the last two leaves are torn off to maintain a lower growing form.
Avocados grown as an ornamental plant are unlikely to bear fruit, and if the fruit does develop, it will be of poorer quality and taste differently than those grown in orchards. Varieties grown for fruit production have different fruit ripening times. For example, the most common variety, Hass, bears fruit in April, while some varieties bear fruit in late summer or early autumn. For the plant to bear fruit, it is obligatory to plant several avocado trees due to pollination. It usually takes 3 to 4 years for the first fruits to appear in the plantation, and the harvest should be done by hand in order not to damage the fruit.
After harvest, the fruits are not immediately ready for consumption because they are not ripen enough. The fruits need to be kept at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks to be edible. To speed up the process, it is recommended to store avocados next to bananas that release ethylene which encourages ripening.
Ripe avocados can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, and sliced fruits sprinkled with lemon juice can be stored in the refrigerator in a closed container for up to two days.
As for the avocado puree, it can be frozen with the addition of lemon juice and stored as such for up to 5 months.
Due to inadequate cultivation conditions, diseases are possible. The most common diseases are powdery mildew and leaf fall.
Most often occurs in conditions of excessive humidity, during exposure to rainy and cold weather. You’ll notice an ashy coating on the leaves, the lower leaves might turn yellow and begin to fall off, while the young leaves deform and the plant slowly dies. Infected leaves should be removed to prevent the spread of the disease, after which the plant should be sprayed with a mixture of potassium soap and sulfur. In case of a stronger attack, it is necessary to apply fungicides.
The loss of lower leaves is caused by root rot due to excessive soil moisture. Before falling off, the leaves usually turn black and the development of mold is possible.
In addition to the onset of disease, avocados can be threatened by pests that most commonly occur due to too low humidity. The most common pests of avocados are lice and mites.
They appear due to low humidity, and with a stronger attack, they cause yellowing of the leaves and death of the plant. They are easily transmitted from plant to plant, so it is necessary to isolate infected plants and treat them with a soap mixture. After that, it is necessary to check the plant for a few days to make sure that the lice have not returned.
An attack of mites causes similar symptoms to those of a lice attack. The leaves turn yellow and fall off, and can damage the flower if they appear during the flowering season. It is necessary to maintain humidity because pests spread best when humidity is low.
High nutritional values allow the wide application of avocados in cooking and the production of various medical preparations.
Use in medicine
Due to the quality composition of fatty acids, the consumption of avocado reduces cholesterol and has a beneficial effect on the health of the cardiovascular system. The high content of folic acid reduces the risk of stroke and improves memory.
Avocado is also useful for eye health due to the carotenoid lutein which protects against macular degeneration and cataracts. It also contains sterols that stimulate the development of lymphocytes and normalize blood sugar levels.
The high content of vitamin E helps protect the skin and is a powerful antioxidant, and vitamin C is important for the synthesis of collagen, which is essential for the development of cells and tissues.
Avocado is rich in fiber that promotes digestion and helps regulate weight. Avocado oil deeply nourishes the skin, relieves itching in psoriasis and eczema and slows down aging.
Use in cooking
Avocado has a relatively neutral taste which allows it to be combined with many spices, fruits and vegetables. The most famous sauce is guacamole in which avocado is combined with tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, coriander or parsley leaves and spices. It can be combined with cucumbers, potatoes, arugula, cucumber, fennel, mint, orange and the like.
It can be served with grilled fish, chicken, pasta, and in various salads. In addition to savory dishes, avocado is also used in the preparation of desserts and is recommended in the vegan diet.
History and facts
Avocados originate from Central America and Mexico where they began to be grown 8,000 BC and was the food of the poor. It was brought to Europe in the 16th century, and Asia, through Jamaica in the 17th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, it spread to the United States, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Colombia.
The name comes from the Aztec word ahuacatl, meaning "alligator pear," meaning a rough bark reminiscent of alligator skin.
Avocado is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as "the healthiest fruit in the world".
Photo: Cesar Gonzalez / Pixabay