Avocado Planting Lessons
Written By: Suzy González
Avocados are delicious, nutritious and offer so many virtues. From the popular guacamole, to tacos, salads, and sandwiches. It can even be used in smoothies and desserts! It’s so versatile that the entire plant can be used in one way or another. Many of the plant foods that are currently trending are nothing new to Indigenous peoples that have consumed these nutritional staples for thousands of years. It's become common nowadays to see foods like the Dominican pan con aguacate be rebranded as "avocado toast" in gentrified neighborhoods with overpriced brunches.
Avocados originate from Puebla, South Central Mexico, at the site of Coxcatlan, where they were eaten from native trees at least 10,000 years ago. Then the Inca, Olmec, and Maya began to cultivate them about 5,000 years ago. In ancient Maya, the fourteenth month of the calendar (K’ank’in) contains a glyph of an avocado. From the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, and for a moment, known to some as the alligator pear, it soon found its way back to the native ahuacatl, which eventually became aguacate in Spanish and avocado in English. Botanically, the fruit is considered a berry. The most common Hass avocado is grown in Southern California and Mexico. Avocados are nowadays grown worldwide, from the Dominican Republic to Indonesia to South Africa to Australia and even more! The migration of this fruit has allowed for innovative foods such as the avocado-coffee shakes made in Indonesia and Singapore.
In ancient Mesoamerica, the belief was that avocados brought strength when eaten. Not only are they buttery, nutty, and delicious, but they also provide the body thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), and Vitamin A. You may have heard that avocados provide “good fats” to the body. What this means is avocados provide fats to the body without raising cholesterol levels. The body absorbs vitamins A,D,E and K with the help of fats consumed through the diet. Consuming unsaturated fat sources like avocados instead of saturated fats like solid oils has been known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. You can even try cooking with avocado oil in place of other oils.
Some creative and sweet advantages of avocados and their creamy texture include replacing butter in baking, frosting, puddings, ice cream or no-bake chocolate pies. Just as there are many different ways to eat avocados, there are just as many health-promoting benefits. Tea made from avocado leaves is known to treat kidney stones,reduce stomach ulcers, lower blood glucose and blood pressure, treat asthma symptoms, and even provides antioxidant and anticonvulsant properties. Avocado leaves are alternatives for bay leaves in flavoring soups, and the large leaves can even be used to wrap tamales. Tea made with avocado pits is also becoming more common and contains Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Potassium, and other antioxidants. As with any plant medicine, it is advised to first research and ensure that it doesn’t interact unfavorably with any medications you’re using or conditions you may have. It should also be noted that avocado leaves, fruit, seeds, and bark contain persin, which may cause an upset stomach in dogs or more serious sensitivities in birds, horses, and rodents, so take caution around your animal friends.
In addition to making tea with different parts of the avocado, the peels and pits can create a natural pink dye. You can even use avocado for your skin! Make an easy hydrating face mask by combining avocado with oatmeal. Blend smooth or keep the texture to exfoliate. Play with different recipes until you find what your skin prefers. One of my favorite and most simple ways to use avocado is to massage it into raw greens with lemon or lime juice. I personally am also a compulsive avocado tree grower. If you’ve never done it, I’d highly recommend growing a tree or two right from the pit! It may take years to produce actual fruit unless grafted. Yet, with patience and care, you will most certainly be rewarded with its medicinal leaves.
As you can see, there are so many delicious and creative things to do with this fruit that Madre Tierra offered us thousands of years ago. Ready to eat when just barely soft and with a short window of perfection, avocados are well worth it! So next time you’re picking out your aguacate, remember all of those who came before so that this nutritious gift could make it to your plate.