Avocado (Persea americana) is a tree and member of the family Lauraceae. The fruit of the plant, also called an avocado (or avocado pear or alligator pear), is a large berry containing a single large seed.
Avocado is easily digested and contains over 25 essential nutrients including iron, copper, magnesium, and essential fatty acids that help the body to function optimally.
A typical serving of avocado (100 g) is moderate to rich in several B vitamins and vitamin K, C, E and potassium. Avocados also contain phytosterols and carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
Avocados are an excellent source of glutathione which helps to boost the immune system, strengthen the heart, rebuild the nervous system, and slow the aging process.
The monounsaturated fats in avocados may reverse insulin resistance which helps to steady blood sugar levels.
Due to its nutritional profile, it is one of the closest foods to mother’s breast milk, being a complete and easily assimilable food with protein ratios that are equal to breast milk. Pregnant women can help the brain development of their infants by eating avocados as a natural source of folate.
Avocados are high in folate which is essential for women in childbearing years and is also known to aid in preventing strokes and reducing the risk of heart disease.
Avocados increase the body’s ability to assimilate nutrients, so they are a wonderful addition to green leafy salads to ensure proper absorption of all the vitamins and minerals.
Due to avocados high fat content, they provide nutrients to our skin which help it to be soft and healthy.
Word of warning: Avocado leaves, bark, skin, or pit are documented to be harmful to animals; cats, dogs, cattle, goats, rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, birds, fish, and horses can be severely harmed or even killed when they consume them. If you have a latex allergy, talk to your doctor before adding avocado to your diet. People with a serious allergy to latex may also experience symptoms after eating avocado.
Avocados are low in sugar and they contain fiber, which helps you feel full longer.
Avocados are great eaten just by themselves. Sliced or cubed they are a wonderful addition to salads, rice or pasta dishes or anything your imagination can come up with.
Rolled up avocado in your favorite wraps and summer rolls, or mashed spread on toast, avocados are simple, quick and easy to make a meal with.
Most famously, Guacamole rocks full of spices, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic and lime juice, scooped up with corn chips or perhaps simple avocado dips with a touch of sour cream. Create avocado salad dressing that adds a smooth creamy texture to your meal.
Add a crumb cover to stuffed avocados for frying, blend them in your smoothie or even make chocolate pudding with it. Avocados are definitely something to create healthy meals with!
Avocado oil is a luscious source of good fats to drizzle on food. It is also beneficial to our skin and is used in many of our lotions and skin products.
When considering what kind of avocado tree you wish to grow, know there are three landraces of avocados. The Guatemalan types have the highest oil content and thick, pebbly skin. Their fruit may sit on the tree for up to a year and a half before maturation.
The Mexican types are the coldest tolerant. They have thin skin, fragrant leaves, and are ready to pick in six to nine months. The third race is West Indian which are frost sensitive and have low oil content.
Most of the avocados we grow in the US are Guatemalan-Mexican hybrids, like the Hass. They combine the richness of the Guatemalan avocados with the frost tolerance of the Mexican avocados.
All avocado tree varieties are divided into type A and type B flowering cycles. Flowers of type A cultivars open in the morning as receptive females, then close until the following afternoon when they re-open as males and shed pollen.
Flowers of type B cultivars open in the afternoon as receptive females, close and reopen the following morning as males to shed pollen.
Because of this male and female flowers are often not flowering at the same time which can make it hard to achieve pollination. For this reason, it’s recommended to plant an A and B type together. Although some avocado trees can self-pollinate.
Growing avocado trees are easy either from sprouting the pit or using a young tree from your nursery.
If you wish to sprout your own start by removing the pit from a fresh avocado. Be sure not to cut or score the pit during removal. Wash off any remnants of the fruit, but make sure you don’t remove the brown seed cover.
Determine the top and bottom ends of the seed, the seed will be slightly egg-shaped, and the bottom would be the thicker, flatter end where the roots will form.
With the top end up, pierce the seed with four toothpicks, about three-quarters of the way down, angling slightly downward. Place into a glass or small bowl of water, so that the water covers the bottom end of the seed while keeping the top end dry and above water.
Place the glass on a windowsill that gets plenty of sunlight. Change the water at least once a week or more to prevent fungal growth. It may sprout in two to eight weeks and the longest root, the taproot, should never dry out or it can die.
Once the seedling has reached a height of 6 or 7 inches again, and roots are at least 2 to 3 inches long, transplant the seedling into a 6 to 10 inch pot filled with humus-rich soil, leaving the top half of the seed above the soil line. Keep the pot on a sunny windowsill.
Make sure the soil never dries out completely; the soil needs to be kept moist, but not soggy. Over-watering will result in yellowing leaves. You can tell the plant needs water when the leaves curl slightly upward. Leaves curling downward is an indication of sufficient water.
Before you plant, choose the right variety for your area and needs. Planting early in spring allows young trees to harden off and begin establishing before the heat of summer and winter chill.
New trees should be planted on mounds 18 inches to two feet high, and six feet across, even when you have fast draining soil.
Use lots of aged manure and organic fertilizer in the planting hole, and the more mulch the better as avocados have shallow roots; avocados thrive in deep mulch. Never rake up the leaves – leave the leaves where they fall.
Avocados do not do well in containers – they should be planted in the ground. Keep them well pruned annually under eight feet don’t let it get out of hand.
When weather gets over 95 degrees it may deter fruit set and keep trees well-watered when it is hot. When temperature gets below 25 degrees, you need to protect the base or cover the tree.
Bees are the prime pollinators of avocados, so having a bee friendly environment is recommended. Planting both an A type such as Hass or Reed, and a B type cultivar such as Bacon or Fuerte, may dramatically increase fruit set.
Planting on slopes adds to drainage and provides a sun fill nurturing place that helps to protect the trees in winter.
The best place to store fruit is on the tree. Some varieties hold their fruit well for up to six months, while others don’t. Picking fruit only when needed may extend the harvest period for many months. The longer avocados sit on the tree the higher the oil content.
Avocados are mature before picking, but not ready to eat. They must be softened off the tree. The softening process takes from a few days to a week or even longer.
To keep them from ripening, refrigerate them. To speed up ripening, put them in a paper bag with an apple or a banana.
When buying avocados, the best ones are as in this photo, where the inside the stem plug, the skin is still green. It is ripe and ready eat or eaten in the next day or two.
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