Thursday, March 1, 2012

Local avocados!

We love avocados and have long dreamed of having our own tree. We are not alone: growing avocados appears to be the holy grail of many a Sacramento Valley gardener. Every now and then you hear from a friend of a friend of a friend who successfully grows avocados in our area. But I had never met anybody who actually has an avocado tree.

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Locally grown avocados, the holy grail for many of us!

Until last Sunday. At a flea market in downtown Davis a guy was selling avocados from his very own tree. He said he had a bumper crop this year because of the mild weather. What’s even more remarkable: This guy is just a regular homeowner, not an over-the-top plant nut like me, and the tree was already there when they bought their house. He doesn’t baby-sit the tree, doesn’t protect it on cold nights, and yet it still produces. My wife and I bought four avocados to try, and they are indeed yummy. I also took some avocado leaves to freeze—they’re used in some Mexican moles and are impossible to find in local grocery stores. (I love making traditional Mexican food.)

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This variety is called Bacon

Coming across these locally grown avocados may have pushed us off the fence as far as planting our own tree is concerned. We removed a nectarine tree in our backyard last fall and had already been toying with the idea of replacing it with an avocado. Now it’s simply a matter of choosing which variety:

  • Hass, the regular supermarket avocado with the black bumpy skin, is much too tender.
  • Bacon, the variety we just tried, is a possibility since it’s rated to 24°F.
  • Mexicola is even hardier, down to 20°F.
  • However, based on what I’ve read, my current first choice is Stewart, a compact (8-10 ft.) Mexicola relative hardy to 24°F, producing excellent-tasting fruit.
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Avocado leaves are fairly large and have a substantial feel to them

Avocado trees come in type A and B, and both are needed for successful pollination. However, in California avocados are considered self-fruitful (I don’t know why but I’m not complaining). That means that you only need one tree, type A or B, to get fruit as long as you live in a temperate enough climate. Complicated, isn’t it?

If you want to know more, check out the web site for Dave Wilson Nursery in Modesto. It has a lot of useful information for the Central Valley.

And if you thought there are only a few varieties of avocado—after all, in the store you’ll see no more than one or two—check out the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources site. It lists almost 1,000 (!!) known avocado varieties!

6 comments:

  1. Save some of the seeds Gerhard and grow them on. The tree where they came from is possibly a better (and hardier) clone and the seedlings may prove just as tough and rewarding as the mother plant :)

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    1. Good idea. I'll definitely do that for fun. However, according to Wikipedia, "While an avocado propagated by seed can bear fruit, it takes roughly four to six years to do so, and the offspring is unlikely to resemble the parent cultivar in fruit quality. Rootstocks are propagated by seed (seedling rootstocks) and also layering (clonal rootstocks)." I think I'll still need to buy a (grafted) tree from a nursery.

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  2. Hey, even *I* have an avocado tree! (Two actually, growing in pots.) Given to me last year -- I saved them from the compost pile actually. I don't even like avocados.

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    1. And I thought my daughters were the only people in the world who didn't like avocados :-)

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  3. If I am trying to grow avocadoes from seeds here in Massachusetts for fun (you know, suspended in water with toothpicks!), then you definitely have to buy your avocado tree! Guacamole every day! anne

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    1. Anne, but it's "good fat," as they say, LOL.

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