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Growing your own avocado supply – I

Since the recent rise in the population of avocado-lovers in this part of the world, everyone seems to be looking for a perfectly ripe buttery ‘organic’ avocado at stores and the farmer’s market. While farmers are investing in growing this newly popular fruit and retailers are rushing to import fruits from elsewhere, many urban gardeners have started their own avocado trees at home.

For a fruit that is just beginning to gain popularity and has a very short shelf life, it is hard for markets and stores to have fresh avocado available at all times. It is difficult to locate where the fruit will be available and, of course, the prices are quite high for anyone looking to consume it regularly.

It is most likely for this reason why I receive tons of emails asking how to grow avocados. Where to find avocados? How long does it take to grow a tree? Do we need more than one tree to make it fruit? So, I decided to first grow it myself and see what works and then share my experience.

Growing from seeds

The Heart-Healthy Super Food!

Avocados are dense in nutrients. We’re talking almost 20 vitamins and minerals. It is also the only fruit that contains monounsaturated fats, which are good for the heart. Avocado also helps increase absorption of fat soluble nutrients like vitamin D, K, E and A. This is the reason why it has been introduced as a super food worldwide and, naturally, has become important to people pursuing healthy eating habits.

Know Your Avocado

Ever wondered which type of avocado you ought to use to make guacamole, which to put in a sandwich or which to drink in a smoothie?

It is worth paying attention to what your fruit looks and tastes like – especially if you are planning on growing it from the seed.

Planting avocado seeds is no mystery. Particularly exciting, however, is all the wonderful varieties that are available out there. This selection becomes especially important when you have limited space and you can plant only one tree. You need to invest a few years of work, and having done so, you can reasonably expect a pure treat for many more years to come.

Some growers showed me trees that they started from seeds and these started producing fruits in just 2 years

Incidentally, the avocado is locally known as ‘Magar-Nashpati’ which literally translates to ‘Alligator Pear’ and, as you can see, it describes how the fruit generally looks like. Some of the varieties of avocados are pear-shaped with pebbly skin. But not all avocados are made equal.

There are hundreds of types of avocados but about seven of them are commercially most popular around the world. Let us explore what makes them stand out.

  1. Hass

This is the most popular variety around the world. It is distinctive for its skin colour, that turns to purplish black from green when it’s ripe. The pebbly, thick-skinned fruit is oval and medium in size. Hass is also easy to peel and store. The flesh is pale green and creamy in taste.

  1. Fuerte

This is another pear-shape avocado that tastes great and is easy to peel. Skin is thin, green and smooth while flesh is buttery and pale green.

  1. Gwen

Gwen resembles Hass in taste, texture and appearance but it is slightly larger. The plump oval fruit has a creamy gold-green flesh, which tastes great.

  1. Pinkerton

One of the varieties that yield more fruits on a tree and also has a small seed. The long, pear shaped fruit is large in size. Skin is thick green with slight pebbling while flesh is creamy and pale green.

  1. Reed

This round-shaped, large fruit has a medium-sized seed and tastes really good. The skin is thick and textured. The skin remains green when ripe.

  1. Zutano

It is easily recognisable by its shiny, yellow-green skin. The fruits are pear-shaped and are moderately easy to peel. The shiny thin yellow-green skin covers pale green flesh, which is slightly textured and also has a light taste.

  1. Lamb Hass

This one has exceptional flavour and a large size. The skin is pebbly with pale green flesh inside, which is nutty, smooth and creamy. In appearance it may look like the Hass avocado.

Hass Avocados

Starting your own tree from a seed

You can simply bury the seed halfway into soil that retains moisture and drains well, or you can use the more popular method of soaking half of the seed in a jar of water, supported by toothpicks.

Both methods work well. It takes about a month for the seed to sprout. But once it has a few leaves, it will began to grow fast.

Do you need one tree to fruit or more?

Well, most growers and researchers discourage growing avocados from seeds because it may take anywhere from 3 to 15 years to see the first fruits and also because of the cross pollination of different varieties of avocados while producing the fruit. This may result in a producing a fruit that is different from what you planted.

This information had kept me from growing my own avocados from seeds for a long time. And so it was, until some growers showed me trees that they started from seeds and these started producing fruits in just 2 years. Some did take more time to fruit but they were true to the parent.

While both of these experiences are quite factual and true, we must learn more about how the tree works.

Each avocado tree produces millions of flowers but only 1 out of 10,000 becomes a fruit. Some varieties do not need other avocado trees to pollinate their flowers, while some do. Because each area has their local names for these varieties, it becomes complicated to identify.

When it comes to pollination, there are two types of avocado trees: A and B. Those of the B type shed pollen in the morning and receive pollen in the afternoon, while those of type A shed pollen in the afternoon and receive pollen in the day.

But technically, each avocado tree is self pollinated. The flowers change their characteristics during the day – during one part of the day, they are female; and during the other, male.

I am growing both Hass and Reed varieties from seeds and I shall continue writing more about it for my next piece in this space. There I will have more essential information on growing avocados at home: when to know they are ripe, what the fertiliser requirements are, what sort of containers you ought to use, some growing tips and much more.

Zahra Ali is a sustainability educator, writer and environmentalist. She blogs at cropsinpots.pk. Send in questions about gardening to Zahra@cropsinpots.pk

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Zahra Ali Husain is a sustainability educator, freelance writer and an environmentalist. She is also a co-founder of Organic City Pakistan and runs the Green Schools & the Horticulture Therapy programs along with Yasir Husain. Zahra also manages an organic farm.

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