Monday, August 4, 2014

Homegrown Avocados

Our seven-year-old avocado tree is covered with large, pear-shaped spheres of potential goodness. My husband Ralph and I did a tentative first picking of the season today, harvesting a half-dozen samples to test for ripeness.

Although most people consider it a vegetable, the avocado is actually a fruit that grows on a medium-sized evergreen tree. Beneath the fruit’s green-skinned exterior are mounds of soft edible flesh surrounding a single pit, or seed. Related to cinnamon, sassafras and camphor trees, this member of the Laurel family is native to Central America, where the Aztec people considered it such a powerful aphrodisiac that they kept their daughters indoors during harvest season. Avocados were introduced to Florida in 1833 and to California 23 years later.

The rich-tasting, smooth and buttery flesh inside an avocado is incredibly versatile. In addition to being the main ingredient in guacamole, avocado-based products include items as diverse as ice cream, puddings, smoothies, soups and cosmetics.

An avocado smoothie (photo credit:

While I find the idea of an avocado facemask intriguing, my preferences for its use run more along more culinary lines. I enjoy eating the fruit by the scoopful, sliced on a sandwich or as a lumpy mash mixed with homegrown tomatoes, parsley, garlic and onions and sprinkled with lemon juice.

Guacamole (Photo credit:

Recognized as a nutritional powerhouse, avocados are high in fiber and rich in minerals such as potassium and magnesium as well as Vitamins A, C, D, E, K and eight kinds of B vitamins. An avocado is a source for monounsaturated “good fats,” which have been shown to improve cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease.

With so many beneficial attributes, not to mention an appealing taste and texture, it’s no surprise I’ve been eagerly anticipating the harvest of our own fruit. But the problem with avocados is knowing the right time to pick.

Unlike other fruits that change colors as they mature, most varieties of avocado remain the same color throughout their growth. The size of the fruit, however, does not stay constant. Its length and girth increase as the weather warms. Experts say the best way to tell if an avocado is ready to harvest is to pick one when it looks big enough, bring it inside and then wait a few days to see if it ripens. Not what I’d call a scientific approach, but I’m willing to give it a go.

Watching our avocados grow

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been telling my husband that the avocados on our oldest tree are getting big — store-size big, which to me says, ‘Time to pick.’ Ralph’s response to my observations has been an assorted mumble of unintelligible grunts. The other day, however, tired of being ignored, I insisted he look at the tree himself.

Sure enough, once he stood beneath it and looked up at all the large fruit hanging down, he admitted I might be right.

Naturally, the biggest avocados were way out of reach, but by using an extension pole picking device, Ralph was able to snag a few of the larger fruits from the upper limbs. Since they were all still hard, we set the shiny-skinned fruit in the pantry to ripen. In a few days, they should soften up and be ready to cut open and taste.

If they do ripen properly, we’ll need to start harvesting the remaining fruit. A single tree can produce 60 to 150 pounds of fruit. While I doubt if our tree will be that productive, even half as many pounds of avocados is more than two people can eat.

It’s a good thing we have family and friends to share the bounty with and, of course, there’s always guacamole to make. If we get tired of that, a quick Google search for avocado recipes yields more than 19 million results, so finding a few new concoctions shouldn’t be too difficult. If I get desperate for something to do with all the avocados — who knows? — I might even whip up a facemask.

Recipe for avocado facemask at


  1. I have been dying to get one in my garden,but I have to find a place for it.I have to do some thinning out.....

    1. Ah yes, the old "where am I going to put it" dilemma. I know it well!

  2. Thank you.This is all news to me and very interesting. I've never seen and avacado growing on a tree. I look forward to hearing about the flavor. Just wondering if fresh tastes much different than the ones we get at the grocery store in southeast Missouri.

    1. Our homegrown avocados taste SO much better than any store bought avocado I've ever had. Much sweeter with a smoother texture. It's almost as if it is a different food entirely.

  3. Thanks for "Sherring," Very informative with great pictures, as always.
    One point, however about the article: Why didn't the Aztecs keep their SONS inside during the harvest season? (:

    1. Hi Millie! Maybe if it were the Amazons instead of the Aztecs, they would have been more apt to keep their sons inside instead of their daughters. Guess the Aztecs were just as sexually backward when it comes to women's lib as societies are today.