Avocados were a mainstay of the Aztec and Inca diets. Amidst their conquering and plundering, the Conquistadors employed an historian, Fernandez de Oriedo, who, in 1519, gave an excellent description of this hitherto unreported plant: ‘In the centre of the fruit is a seed like a peeled chestnut. And between this and the rind is the part which is eaten, which is abundant, and is a paste similar to butter and of a very good taste.’ The wider world has been enjoying avocados ever since.
At a glance
- How easy to grow
- Care needed
- Part used
- Flesh of fruit
- Goes well with
- Tomatoes and smoked salmon on toast
- Also known as
- Persea americana
- How to use
- Food or applied on skin
- Climate zones
- Companion plant
Unique among fruit, avocado stores energy as fat. The type of fat is monounsaturated, similar to olive oil, and helpful in the prevention and treatment of heart disease. Eating avocado regularly will help reduce total cholesterol, while increasing good cholesterol (HDL) ratios. There is also evidence that eating avocado will reduce and prevent further degeneration of the cartilage in osteoarthritis. Avocados also contain good amounts of soluble fibre, vitamin E, betacarotene and the natural pigment lutein, a substance that helps reduce the formation of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. As it is rich in skin-friendly vitamin E and monounsaturated fats, avocados help all kinds of skin problems, from eczema and psoriasis to dry skin.
- Managing and preventing high cholesterol, arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, cataracts, macular degeneration, dry skin
- Eczema, psoriasis, dry skin
- How to use it
- Internally - Use in salads, sandwiches, dips (see guacamole recipe below)
- Topically - Poultice or mask (see recipe below)
Avocado mask for skin conditions
- 2 tablespoons ground rolled oats (finely mill in coffee grinder)
- ½ avocado, mashed
- ¼ cup honey
To clean, dry skin, apply mixture of oats, avocado and honey. Wait 10 minutes, then rinse.
- 1 avocado, flesh removed
- Juice ½ lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Cracked black pepper, pinch sea salt
Mash all ingredients together with a fork. Eat on toast with sliced tomato or as an accompaniment to grilled fish, chicken or lamb.
Growing your own
Testicle trees: that’s what the Aztecs called avocado trees. Part of the laurel family, the avocado is a large evergreen tree that grows up to 9 m. They maintain a magnificent shape that does not require pruning. Avocados hang down from branches in pairs, no doubt giving the visual clue to their early Aztec name. There are more than seventy varieties of avocados, with the most common being the smooth-skinned, green and voluptuously pear-shaped Fuerte; and the smaller, knobbly, purple-black Hass. In its prime the avocado tree can bear 400 fruit per year. It’s best to buy grafted plants as seedlings often disappoint by not producing fruit. Grafted plants begin to bear fruit after four years.
Avocado trees, at least initially, need protection from frosts and wind. They require deep, very well-drained soil and need frequent watering. Good drainage is the key: they risk death if their feet are wet for more than forty-eight hours. Fertilise when flowering commences in spring, then twice during summer and once again in autumn. Avocado fruit will mature but not ripen on the tree. This is due to a hormone produced by the leaves that inhibits the production of ethylene, the ripening chemical. Once picked, the fruit will ripen within days. Pick when fully formed.
The avocado stores energy as monounsaturated fat which is helpful in the prevention and treatment of heart disease… and more! Mim shares an extract of her latest book, Grow Your Own Medicine to inspire you to plant avocados in your garden.