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Norman Bezona Prof emeritus University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture

Norman Bezona
Prof emeritus
University of Hawaii
College of Tropical Agriculture

This coming Saturday, February 27 marks the 10th Anniversary of the Hawaii Avocado Festival. It’s a great time to learn all you ever wanted to know about growing and using avocados. The event will be held at the Sheraton Kona Resort from 10 AM to 5 PM. To get details on the festival check out the website, AvocadoFestival.org.

Avocado trees are ideally suited for Kona’s winter dry and summer wet weather as well as our well drained soils. However, they do well in wetter locations as long as the soil is not soggy or poorly drained. This year we have had extremely dry weather that is resulting in the abundant flowering of avocado, citrus, mango and coffee trees. Now we need rain or supplementary irrigation to set and hold the fruit. Spring flowering trees like the flamboyant Royal Poinciana and Bougainvillea respond to the dry winter in showy mass blooming, but this is the driest winter season on record for many parts of the Islands so we must be diligent in supplying water now or may lose trees and shrubs for lack of irrigation. Even coconut palms along Queen Ka’ahumanu are dying for lack of water and unfortunately, over pruning leaves early this season. According to UHCTAHR Extension Agent, Andrea Kawabata, coffee farmers are especially worried about damaged trees and reduced crops if we don’t get rain soon. So pray for rain or irrigate as is needed to save our precious fruit and flowering trees.

Fat has a bad reputation in today’s health oriented society, but fats are essential to our well being. It’s just that some fats are better than others. Avocado fruit are among the most healthy sources.

 

An easy to grow beautiful versatile tree that provides high value fruit .

An easy to grow beautiful versatile tree that provides high value fruit .

No Hawaiian garden is complete without an avocado tree for shade and fruit. The avocado has been for centuries the great food crop of Central and South America. It is unusual in having its stored food chiefly in the form of fat and protein instead of sugar as in nearly all other fruits. The fruit is very high in vitamins and minerals. It is especially high in phosphorous, Vitamin A, riboflavin and niacin. The fat contains no cholesterol.

The avocado is a native American fruit that was growing wild from Southern Mexico to Ecuador and the West Indies at the time of Columbus’ arrival. Just when it was introduced into Hawaii, no one really knows, but it has naturalized and may be commonly found where conditions are favorable.

Avocados are now found on the markets all over the country at all times of the year. The major Florida crop comes on the market from June to February and the California crop from January to June. Hawaii has fruit all year round.

The avocado is borne on large evergreen trees with large, somewhat leathery leaves. This tree is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, but it must be provided with good drainage. Flowers are produced in late winter or spring, and the fruit matures in anywhere from 6 to 18 months, depending on location and variety. The avocado may be left on the tree for some weeks after it first matures with comparatively little dropping.

The avocado is a little strange when it comes to sex and fertilization. For example, the flower opens and closes twice. At its first opening, every flower behaves as if it were a female flower only, able to be pollinated but not able to shed pollen. Then it closes for 12 to 24 hours, and when it opens again it is essentially a male flower, shedding pollen but usually no longer in condition to be pollinated. Furthermore, all of the flowers on a tree open and close almost at the same time and all the trees of a given variety behave just alike, and their flowers open or close together. This makes interplanting of two or three varieties a very important practice.

Even after more than 100 years of culture in Hawaii, there is no one variety or set of varieties that is wholly satisfactory. Each has its faults and advantages. Sharwil, Yamagata, Murashige, Ohata, and Kahaluu are local favorites.

If you are in a hurry, avoid seedlings and grow grafted trees. Seedlings grow quite tall and may take 7 to 12 years to bear fruit and then you may not get good quality fruit. Grafted trees are carried at some nurseries. Grafted trees, begin to bear in two years and are not as tall.

Avocados may be planted successfully at any season of the year. Frequent irrigations are necessary though, until the tree is established. Remember that avocado trees do not like saline water or soils Choose a rich, well drained soil. Strong winds will cause leaves to burn or shed. If your soil is poor, mix in peat moss and well rotted manure to improve it. Shading and wind protection of newly planted trees is important to give them a good start. Avoid planting avocados near the ecean exposed to winds and salinity.

Avocados are heavy feeders. The fertilizer should carry a high percentage of nitrogen with a good portion derived from organic sources. Good results are obtained under widely varying treatments. Animal and poultry manures are very beneficial to the avocado as they add humus and bacteria to the soil besides being valuable as a fertilizer. Be careful not to over fertilize or you may burn roots and leaves.

Newly planted trees should be fertilized at planting time with a 1-1-1 ratio fertilizer that has at least 30 percent of its nitrogen derived from natural organics. Fertilize according to label directions.

Like most other fruits, you are bound to get bumper crops. Finding ways to incorporate this nutritious fruit into your family’s diet can be a chore.

Although most commonly associated as a salad fruit, the avocado can also be used in soup, as a sandwich spread or dip, and in desserts.

Because of its rich, butter-like flavor, the avocado combines well with vinegar or lemon juice and with acid fruits and vegetables, such as pineapple, oranges, grapefruit and tomatoes. A contrast in texture, such as celery, carrots, pepper and watercress, also make appetizing combinations.

There are a number of molded avocado salad recipes available. These molded salads, using plain lime or lemon flavored gelatin, include fruit combinations, fish or chicken meat, or can be made with cottage cheese or creamed cheese.

A very easy but filling luncheon main dish can be prepared by using half an avocado per person, and stuffing it with crab meat, chicken, tuna or shrimp salad. The salad, used as the stuffing, should include a crunchy vegetable such as cabbage, celery or green pepper. Strips of red pimento will add the proper accent to the stuffed avocado salad.

Avocado tends to darken on standing and to prevent this from happening after cutting, sprinkle with lemon juice or pineapple juice. If using only half an avocado, save the unused portion by keeping it unpeeled, with the seed still imbedded in it, and wrap tightly in plastic or foil wrap and store in the refrigerator.

The avocado pulp, that is easily prepared in a blender, freezes well, if pineapple or lemon juice is added while being pureed. This pulp can be used in making a delicious bread or cake, by following a banana bread or cake recipe. The pulp can also be used to prepare a chilled summer soup that calls for two cups of condensed cream of chicken soup that has been heated to a smooth consistency and chilled. One half cup of pureed avocado, one half cup of cold milk and a dash of white pepper complete the soup. Stay healthy by including high quality local fruits like avocados in your diet.