This time of year, avocado trees in Almuñécar are full of lovely fruit and it is time to harvest avocados both here and in the rest of Andalusia.
Avocados originate from Central America and Mexico, where they have been grown for more than 10,000 years. The word avocado is derived from the language aztek/nahuatl ahuacatl meaning testicle (Aztec/nahuatl is one of the national languages in Mexico). Avocado, previously called alligator pear, is called Persea americana in Latin. Avocados are a species in the family of laurel plants, and thus related to cinnamon!!
In 1672, the English physician William Hughes visited Jamaica. After the trip, he gave out the book ” The American physitian” where he described the “Spanish pear”, which he called avocado: “one of the most rare and pleasant fruits in that island, it nourishes and strengthens the body”. That is as true now as it was 350 years ago!
In total, about 6,41 million tons of avocados are produced worldwide today. Mexico is the largest producer with over 2.2 million tons, 34% of the world production. In second place is the Dominican Republic with 10 %, then comes Peru, Indonesia, and Colombia. These five countries account for almost 64% of the world’s avocado production!!
In Spain, almost 90 000 tons of avocados are produced annually, representing about 1.4% of the world production. Of these, more than 50 000 tons, 57 % of Spain’s production, origins from the Costa Tropical and Axarquia (eastern part of Malaga province). However, the Europeans eat more than 500,000 tons of avocados a year, so the Spanish avocado is not enough and must be supplemented with imports of avocados mainly from South and Central America.
There are over 500 varieties of avocados, however, only about 50 of these are grown commercially. In Spain and Almuñécar the main varieties are:
The fruits are smooth, and the skin is shiny green. The weight is about 200 – 300 g when ready to be picked. Fruits are ripe first in the season, in the end of September/ early October.
The fruits are pear-shaped, and the skin is smooth, the color is pale green as compared to “Bacon”. Fuerte ripens during the period November – February.
Fuerte also comes as small elongated avocado fruits without a stone, these are called “aborted” and have not been fertilized.
The fruits have a thicker, hoarse skin that is dark green at first and changes color to dark purple when it ripens, size 170 – 420 g. Hass has a creamier/fatter texture than Bacon & Fuerte. Harvested in the period February to April. The fruit can remain on trees until August – September without losing taste, and it ripens only after it is picked.
Hass represents about 70% of all avocados grown in the Granada and Malaga provinces. Rudolph Hass, an avocado farmer in California, has developed this variety and in 1935 he patented his Hass tree (the first patent of the United States on a tree).
In mainland Spain, there was small scale tries to grow avocados earlier but in 1955 Roger Magdahl founded “Rancho California” which was where Almuñécar today has its camping. His family had grown avocados in California, and he had also set up a “huerto California” in Chile where he launched the variety Hass. In October 1960, the first commercial harvest of avocados was sold here in Almuñécar to Barcelona. As second pioneer, in 1965, Almuñécar-born Manuel Galiana planted avocado on his finca San Miguel by the Río Seco. At the same time, studies, adaptation, and development of tropical fruits were started at the finca La Mayora in Algarrobo, which has now become one of the main centers in Spain in this area. Today there are over 15,000 hectares of avocado plantations in Spain.
Avocados grow on trees that are hermaphrodites (bisexual). The flowers can open like female flowers in the morning, close in the middle of the day and in the afternoon open again as male flowers! On other trees, it may be the reverse. Only one of about 5,000 flowers that bloom on an avocado tree develops into a fruit! The size of the harvest depends on many factors, such as flowering, availability of bees, temperature, wind, rain, soil. Each tree may produce between 100 – 500 fruits in a season and good conditions can be expected between 5 – 10 tons of avocados/hectare. The amount of water needed in a year can reach around 7000 m3/hectare, depending on natural precipitation, etc.
Avocado trees that grow wild in the tropics can reach up to 10 – 15 meters height. However, it is impractical to grow such tall trees commercially, and above all to harvest if you cannot reach them with a picking rod, standing on the ground. All avocado fruits are picked manually and one by one, so it takes many hours to harvest this green gold.
Avocado is the fattest fruit you can eat; it contains about 19 grams of fat per 100 grams of pulp. Your body needs fat to function, and avocados are mostly made up of monounsaturated fat (the same type of fat found in e.g. olive oil) that is extremely healthy for your body. According to several different research reports, avocados are good for cardiovascular health. By eating avocados, the “bad” blood fats LDL and triglycerides can be lowered and the “good” blood fats HDL increase.
The fat in avocados also improve your body’s ability to assimilate the fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals from the avocado, and other fruits and vegetables that you eat with it.
In addition to the healthy fat, half avocado (68 grams) contains: dietary fiber (4.6 g), potassium (345 mg), sodium (5.5 mg), magnesium (19.5 mg), vitamin A (43 μg), vitamin C (6.0 mg), vitamin E (1.3 mg), vitamin K1 (14 μg), folate (60 mg), vitamin B6 (0.2 mg), niacin (1.3 mg), pantothenic acid (1.0 mg), riboflavin (0.1 mg), choline (10 mg), lutein/zeaxanthin (185 μg), phytosterols (57 mg). A real health bomb!
Avocados are best enjoyed natural, in salad, as a starter along with shrimp or mashed in a creamy guacamole. However, you can also cook it in the oven or mix it in to a smoothie. Or why not try making desserts with it, such as chocolate mousse, ice cream and other healthy sweets.
Avocados are also pressed into avocado oil that is suitable both in cooking and for skin and hair care. Do you get some avocado leftovers, or maybe you have one that is getting closer to the best-before date? Mash it and use as a softening face mask, yummy for your skin!
The hardest thing about avocados is knowing when it is ripe! For us, who lives in the middle of an avocado farm and can pick avocado directly from our own trees, it’s pretty easy to keep track of how many days have passed from picking it and how it has been kept. 7 – 10 days after picking it and keeping it at normal room temperature (about 20°) it is perfectly ripe to be enjoyed.
Many people who buy avocados in the supermarket experience it as a lottery, immature one second and then overripe as soon as you turn your back at it. Multi-stage handling before reaching a store in another country exposes avocados to both shocks and temperature variations that have a negative impact. Time also makes the number of days it can be in the store before it becomes overripe sometimes to be short.
An important part of the avocado to keep track of is the upper part where the branch is stuck. If it has a small piece of the branch that is still stuck, and that does not want to fall off when you poke at it, the avocado is immature and needs to lie on itself for a few more days. Has the stick fallen off and it looks a bit bright green/yellow in the hole it begins to mature, but still a bit to hard to eat. When the hole is light grey/white, it is perfect, and when it starts to darken in the hole, it is a sign that avocado is heading towards its end date. If the hole is black and moldy, the best before date has passed and you can throw the avocado in the compost and hope for better luck next time.
Here you get a couple of recipes on what you can do with your perfectly ripe avocados.
Chocolate truffles with avocado
Healthy sweet that you can enjoy both two and three pieces of without a guilty conscience…
1 ripe avocado,
100 grams of dark chocolate (at least 70%), 1 ml vanilla powder,
1.5 tbsp cocoa (alt. carob powder)
A few teaspoons of cocoa or carob
Grated (organic) orange peel
Melt the chocolate. Mash avocado. Stir together the avocado, cocoa (or carob) and vanilla powder with the melted chocolate.
Spread the batter in a square shape on a baking sheet paper, let it set in the fridge for an hour or so and then cut into pieces. Turn the pieces in cocoa alt. carob powder and sprinkle over grated (organic) orange peel and some salt flakes.
Four shades of green
Perfect tapas for those who love avocado!
fresh basil & parsley to cutover
Mix olive oil and some freshly squeezed lemon juice with 1 clove of garlic and fresh herbs (parsley, basil & oregano), season with a little Herbamare herb salt.