Avocado production and the Caribbean

Norman Bezona | Horticulturist

This week, Voltaire Moise and I are heading to the Caribbean and specifically the island of Hispaniola to assist farmers in the production, marketing and uses of avocados. The sponsor of this farmer-to-farmer project is the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas or FAVACA.

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Hispanola is divided into the Dominican Republic on the east side and Haiti on the west. Like Hawaii, there are many microclimates and soil types on Hispaniola. Although avocado trees are indigenous to the Caribbean and Central America, many farmers plant trees on land where soils and climate are not ideal. For this reason, they have problems with diseases like phytophthora root rot when trees are planted in poorly drained soils.

Many local folks on Hispaniola don’t use avocado fruit in a variety of ways. They mostly eat them fresh rather than creating interesting recipes like we do in Hawaii. Thanks to efforts by the Hawaii Avocado Association, Avocado Festival and tropical fruit conferences, our culinary culture has exposed us to many unique uses of the amazing fruit. Have you tried avocado cheesecake or avocado soup, for example?

Ancient indigenous people were growing, selecting and improving avocado trees centuries before Columbus thought he discovered America. Other New World contributions include corn, pineapple, passionfruit, monstera fruit, peach palm, acai palm, tomato and potato. However, it has only been in the last half of the 20th Century that the remarkable avocado has found its way around the tropical and subtropical world as an important food source. It is ironic that folks who live in places where avocados have been grown since ancient times haven’t been more creative in using this amazing fruit. While in the Dominican Republic, I will be working on the production end, and Moise will assist in marketing and uses. Why the focus on avocados? It is that they grow easily with few problems and are extremely nutritious. Avocados can be a great resource for folks with limited income.

Now let’s get back to avocados in Hawaii. Fat has a bad reputation in today’s health-oriented society, but fats are essential to our well-being. In tropical and subtropical regions of the world where food is scarce, avocado fruit can supply essential fats. It’s just that some fats are better than others.

No tropical 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 from Southern Mexico to Ecuador and the West Indies at the time of Columbus’ arrival. Just when it was introduced to Hawaii, no one really knows, but it has naturalized and may be commonly found where conditions are favorable. Drier areas like Kona are the best regions because of ideal, well-drained soils. Avocados are now found on the markets all over the U.S. 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 yearround.

The avocado is borne on 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 six 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 seven to 12 years to bear fruit and then you may not get good quality fruit. Grafted trees, on the other hand, begin to bear in two years and are not usually as tall.

Avocados may be planted successfully at any season of the year. Frequent irrigation is necessary though, until the tree is established. Choose a rich, well-drained soil. Remember, the tree will not tolerate wet feet. If your soil is poor, mix in peat moss and well-rotted compost and 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 ocean since they are not salt tolerant.

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 because they add humus and bacteria to the soil besides being valuable as a fertilizer. Avoid quick release chemical fertilizers; they tend to make the plants more susceptible to disease and insect pests.

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 soups, 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 makes 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. You can even create desserts like avocado lime pie. The options are endless if you think outside the box.

So stay healthy by including high quality local fruits like avocados in your diet. In tough times like these, growing fruit trees can help us be more self-sufficient.

This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Norman Bezona | Horticulturist

This week, Voltaire Moise and I are heading to the Caribbean and specifically the island of Hispaniola to assist farmers in the production, marketing and uses of avocados. The sponsor of this farmer-to-farmer project is the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas or FAVACA.

Hispanola is divided into the Dominican Republic on the east side and Haiti on the west. Like Hawaii, there are many microclimates and soil types on Hispaniola. Although avocado trees are indigenous to the Caribbean and Central America, many farmers plant trees on land where soils and climate are not ideal. For this reason, they have problems with diseases like phytophthora root rot when trees are planted in poorly drained soils.

Many local folks on Hispaniola don’t use avocado fruit in a variety of ways. They mostly eat them fresh rather than creating interesting recipes like we do in Hawaii. Thanks to efforts by the Hawaii Avocado Association, Avocado Festival and tropical fruit conferences, our culinary culture has exposed us to many unique uses of the amazing fruit. Have you tried avocado cheesecake or avocado soup, for example?

Ancient indigenous people were growing, selecting and improving avocado trees centuries before Columbus thought he discovered America. Other New World contributions include corn, pineapple, passionfruit, monstera fruit, peach palm, acai palm, tomato and potato. However, it has only been in the last half of the 20th Century that the remarkable avocado has found its way around the tropical and subtropical world as an important food source. It is ironic that folks who live in places where avocados have been grown since ancient times haven’t been more creative in using this amazing fruit. While in the Dominican Republic, I will be working on the production end, and Moise will assist in marketing and uses. Why the focus on avocados? It is that they grow easily with few problems and are extremely nutritious. Avocados can be a great resource for folks with limited income.

Now let’s get back to avocados in Hawaii. Fat has a bad reputation in today’s health-oriented society, but fats are essential to our well-being. In tropical and subtropical regions of the world where food is scarce, avocado fruit can supply essential fats. It’s just that some fats are better than others.

No tropical 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 from Southern Mexico to Ecuador and the West Indies at the time of Columbus’ arrival. Just when it was introduced to Hawaii, no one really knows, but it has naturalized and may be commonly found where conditions are favorable. Drier areas like Kona are the best regions because of ideal, well-drained soils. Avocados are now found on the markets all over the U.S. 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 yearround.

The avocado is borne on 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 six 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 seven to 12 years to bear fruit and then you may not get good quality fruit. Grafted trees, on the other hand, begin to bear in two years and are not usually as tall.

Avocados may be planted successfully at any season of the year. Frequent irrigation is necessary though, until the tree is established. Choose a rich, well-drained soil. Remember, the tree will not tolerate wet feet. If your soil is poor, mix in peat moss and well-rotted compost and 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 ocean since they are not salt tolerant.

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 because they add humus and bacteria to the soil besides being valuable as a fertilizer. Avoid quick release chemical fertilizers; they tend to make the plants more susceptible to disease and insect pests.

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 soups, 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 makes 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. You can even create desserts like avocado lime pie. The options are endless if you think outside the box.

ADVERTISING


So stay healthy by including high quality local fruits like avocados in your diet. In tough times like these, growing fruit trees can help us be more self-sufficient.

This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.