The avocado (Persea americana) is a tree native to Mexico and Central America classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel. Avocado or alligator pear also refers to the fruit, botanically a large berry that contains a single seed.
Avocados are commercially valuable and are cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates throughout the world. They have a green-skinned, fleshy body that may be pear-shaped, egg-shaped, or spherical. Commercially, they ripen after harvesting. Trees are partially self-pollinating and often are propagated through grafting to maintain a predictable quality and quantity of the fruit.
Native criollo avocados, the ancestral form of today's domesticated varieties
Persea americana, or the avocado, is believed to have originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico, though fossil evidence suggests similar species were much more widespread millions of years ago, occurring as far north as California at a time when the climate of that region was more hospitable to them.
Cultivars commonly found in South Africa
While dozens of cultivars are grown, the 'Hass' avocado is today the most common. It produces fruit year-round and accounts for 80% of cultivated avocados in the world. All 'Hass' trees are descended from a single "mother tree" raised by a mail carrier named Rudolph Hass, of La Habra Heights, California. 'Hass' trees have medium-sized (150–250 g or 5.3–8.8 oz), ovate fruit with a black, pebbled skin. The flesh has a nutty, rich flavour with 19% oil. A hybrid Guatemalan type can withstand temperatures to −1 °C (30 °F).
First grown on the Pinkerton Ranch in Saticoy, California, in the early 1970s, 'Pinkerton' is a seedling of 'Hass's Rincon'. The large fruit has a small seed, and its green skin deepens in colour as it ripens. The thick flesh has a smooth, creamy texture, pale green colour, good flavour, and high oil content. It shows some cold tolerance, to −1 °C (30 °F) and bears consistently heavy crops. A hybrid Guatemalan type, it has excellent peeling characteristics.
Developed from a chance seedling found in 1948 by James S. Reed in California, this cultivar has large, round, green fruit with a smooth texture and dark, thick, glossy skin. Smooth and delicate, the flesh has a slightly nutty flavour. The skin ripens green. A Guatemalan type, it is hardy to −1 °C (30 °F). Tree size is about 5 by 4 m (16.4 by 13.1 ft).
Developed by a farmer, James Bacon, in 1954, Bacon has medium-sized fruit with smooth, green skin with yellow-green, light-tasting flesh. When ripe, the skin remains green, but darkens slightly, and fruit yields to gentle pressure. It is cold-hardy down to −5 °C (23 °F).
A Mexican/Guatemalan cross originating in Puebla, the 'Fuerte' earned its name, which means strong in Spanish, after it withstood a severe frost in California in 1913. Hardy to −3 °C (27 °F), it has medium-sized, pear-shaped fruit with a green, leathery, easy-to-peel skin. The creamy flesh of mild and rich flavour has 18% oil. The skin ripens green. Tree size is 6 by 4 m (19.7 by 13.1 ft).
Other culitvars also found in the South Africa market place: Rinton, Ryan, Edranol and Lamb Hass.
Some people have allergic reactions to avocado. There are two main forms of allergy: those with a tree-pollen allergy develop local symptoms in the mouth and throat shortly after eating avocado; the second, known as latex-fruit syndrome, is related to latex allergy and symptoms include generalised urticaria, abdominal pain, and vomiting and can sometimes be life-threatening.
Avocado leaves, bark, skin, or pit are documented to be harmful to animals; cats, dogs, cattle, goats, rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, birds, fish, and horses can be severely harmed or even killed when they consume them. The avocado fruit is poisonous to some birds, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists it as toxic to many animals including cats, dogs, and horses.
Avocado leaves contain a toxic fatty acid derivative, persin, which in sufficient quantity can cause colic in horses and, without veterinary treatment, death. The symptoms include gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the tissues of the heart, and even death. Birds also seem to be particularly sensitive to this toxic compound. A line of premium dog and cat food, AvoDerm, uses oils and meal made from avocado meat as main ingredients. The manufacturer says the avocado's leaves and pit are the source of toxicity, and only in the Guatemalan variety of avocados, and the fruit is often eaten by orchard dogs as well as wildlife such as bears and coyotes.
Gluten-Free Fudgy Chocolate Avocado Bread Recipe
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