Plant Description  

Description:

Avocado scientifically known as Persea Americana is a tree which is native to Central America and Mexico and classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae. The word “avocado” is said to be derived from the Nahuatl word “ahuacatl”, which means “testicle”. Obviously, it describes the fruit shape and likely refers to the potency of avocado, which is supposed to be aphrodisiac. Apart from Avocado it is also known as Alligator Pear, Alligator Pear, Avocado, Avocado Pear, Butter Pear, Guatemalan Avocado, Lowland Avocado, Mexican Avocado, Midshipman’s Butter, Trapp Avocado, Vegetable Marrow, and West Indian Avocado. Avocado is rich in monounsaturated fats, which make its texture creamy and smooth. Compared to most other fruits, avocado is much higher in fat. Avocados are called climacteric fruits because they only ripen after harvesting, just like bananas.

Plant

The avocado is an erect, dense, evergreen, medium tree, shedding many leaves in early spring. It is fast growing and is 10–12 m tall and may reach 20 m, and generally branches to form a broad tree. Some cultivars are columnar, others selected for nearly prostrate form. One cultivar makes a good espalier. Growth is in frequent flushes during warm weather in southern regions with only one long flush per year in cooler areas. Roots are coarse and greedy and will raise pavement with age. Grafted plants normally produce fruit within one to two years compared to 8 – 20 years for seedlings. They normally thrive and perform well in climatic conditions ranging from true tropical to warmer parts of the temperate zone. They prefer loose, decomposed granite or sandy loam. They will not survive in locations with poor drainage. The trees grow well on hillsides and should never be planted in stream beds. They are tolerant of acid or alkaline soil. In containers use a planting mix combined with topsoil. Plastic containers should be avoided. It is also useful to plant the tub with annual flowers to reduce excess soil moisture and temperature. Container plants should be leached often to reduce salts.

Foliage

Avocado leaves are alternate; petiole 2–5 cm, sparsely pubescent. Leaf blade is simple, variable in shape, narrowly elliptic, elliptic, ovate, or obovate, 8–20 × 5–12 cm, usually somewhat glaucous lower surface, deep green above, leathery, sparsely yellowish brown pubescent above but very densely so below when mature, midrib conspicuously raised below, lateral veins 5–7 pairs, distinctly raised below, slightly elevated above, base cuneate or acute to sub rounded, apex acute, margin entire. The leaves are high in oils and slow to compost and may collect in mounds beneath trees.

Flowers

Avocado flowers appear in January – March before the first seasonal growth, in terminal panicles of 200 – 300 small yellow-green blooms. Flowers are yellow-greenish; 5–6 mm on 6 mm densely yellowish brown pubescent pedicels. Each panicle will produce only one to three fruits. The flowers are perfect, but are either receptive to pollen in the morning or shed pollen the following afternoon (type A), or are receptive to pollen in the afternoon, and shed pollen the following morning (type B). About 5% of flowers are defective in form and sterile. Production is best with cross-pollination between types A and B.  The flowers attract bees and hoverflies and pollination usually good except during cool weather. Off-season blooms may appear during the year and often set fruit. Some cultivars bloom and set fruit in alternate years.

Fruits

Fruit  is normally yellow-green, deep-green or very dark-green, reddish-purple, or so dark a purple as to appear almost black, and is occasionally speckled with tiny yellow dots, it may be smooth or pebbled, glossy or dull, thin or leathery and up to 6 mm thick, pliable or granular and brittle, large, usually pear-shaped, sometimes ovoid or globose, 8–18 cm; exocarp corky; mesocarp, bright-green fleshy, but generally entirely pale to rich-yellow, buttery and bland or nutlike in flavor. The flesh of avocados is deep green near the skin, becoming yellowish nearer the single large, inedible ovoid seed. The flesh is hard when harvested but softens to a buttery texture. Off-season fruit should not be harvested with the main crop, but left on the tree to mature.

The single seed is oblate, round, conical or ovoid, large, 5–6.4 cm long, hard and heavy, ivory in color but enclosed in two brown, thin, papery seed coats often adhering to the flesh cavity, while the seed slips out readily.

History

The avocado originated in south-central Mexico between 7,000 and 5,000 B.C. This wild avocado tree was not domesticated until several thousand years later. Domesticated avocado seeds have been found buried with Incan mummies dating back to 750 B.C. and avocados may have been cultivated in Mexico around 500 B.C. Spanish conquistadores in central America could not pronounce the Aztec word ahuacatl, so they changed it to aguacate. Sir Henry Sloan first mentioned the avocado by its English spelling in 1696.

Since they are native to Central and South America they did not appear in the UK until the mid-1900s. They are now commercially produced in the US, Caribbean, Mexico, Brazil, Israel and Australia. Sadly the climate restricts avocados growing in the UK.

Use and Preparation

Tradition al uses and benefits of Avocado

  • Fruit skin is antibiotic and has been used as a vermifuge and remedy for dysentery.
  • Pulp is supposed to promote menstruation.
  • Avocado is used in traditional medicine in Aboudé-Mandéké in the region of Agboville in Côte-d’Ivoire (West Africa) to treat diabetes.
  • Various morphological parts of Avocado are widely used in African traditional medicines for the treatment, management and/or control of a variety of human ailments, including childhood convulsions and epilepsy.
  • Avocado is said to have spasmolitic and abortive properties.
  • Oil extracted from the seeds has astringent properties, and an oral infusion of the leaves is used to treat dysentery.
  • Seed is ground and made into an ointment used to treat various skin afflictions, such as scabies, purulent wounds, lesions of the scalp and dandruff.
  • Pulverized seeds or bark, mix with oil are applied on affected area as counterirritant for rheumatism and neuralgia.
  • Seed decoction is put into a tooth cavity to relieve toothache.
  • Leaves have been reported as an effective antitussive, anti-diabetic, and relief for arthritis pain by traditional medicine practitioners of Ibibio tribe in South Nigeria.
  • It is recommended for anemia, exhaustion, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, gastritis, and gastro duodenal ulcers.
  • Leaves are chewed as a remedy for pyorrhea.
  • Leaf poultices are applied on wounds.
  • Heated leaves are applied on the forehead to relieve neuralgia.
  • Leaf juice has antibiotic activity.
  • Aqueous extract of the leaves has a prolonged hypertensive effect.
  • Leaf decoction is taken as a remedy for diarrhea, sore throat and hemorrhage; it allegedly stimulates and regulates menstruation.
  • It is also drunk as a stomachic.
  • Decoction of the new shoots is a cough remedy in Cuba.
  • A boiled decoction of leaves, or shoots of the purple-skinned type serves as an abortifacient.
  • Sometimes a piece of the seed is boiled with the leaves to make the decoction.

Other Facts

  • Surplus avocado fruit is an important food source for pigs and other livestock.
  • Unripe fruit is poisonous and the ground-up seed mixed with cheese is used as a rat and mouse poison.
  • Watery extracts of the avocado leaves contain a yellowish-green essential oil.
  • Honeybees gather a moderate amount of pollen from avocado flowers and provide a dark, thick honey favored by those who like buckwheat honey or sugarcane syrup.
  • Seeds furnish a black sap, used as indelible ink.
  • Ink has also been used to mark cotton and linen textiles.
  • Avocado oil expressed from the pulp and seeds is used as hair-dressing and is employed in making facial creams, hand lotions and fine soap and pharmaceutical products.
  • 30% of the avocado crop is processed for oil, two-thirds of which is utilized in soap, on-third in cosmetics in Brazil.
  • Pulp residue after oil extraction is usable as stock feed.
  • Avocado wood has been used for house building, light construction, furniture, cabinet making, agricultural implements, carving, sculptures, musical instruments, paddles, small articles like pen and brush holders, jewelry boxes and novelties.
  • It also produces a good-quality veneer and plywood.
  • Avocado is colloquially known as the alligator pear because of its shape and the leather like appearance of its skin.
  • Avocados were once a luxury food that was reserved for royalty.
  • A single avocado tree in California can produce up to 500 avocados each year.
  • Avocado flesh is usually not cooked as it becomes too bitter when cooked due to its tannin content and the flavor is impaired.

Precautions

  • Surplus avocado fruit is an important food source for pigs and other livestock.
  • The unripe fruit is poisonous and the ground-up seed mixed with cheese is used as a rat and mouse poison.
  • Watery extracts of the avocado leaves contain a yellowish-green essential oil.
  • Honeybees gather a moderate amount of pollen from avocado flowers and provide a dark, thick honey favored by those who like buckwheat honey or sugarcane syrup.
  • The seeds furnish a black sap, used as indelible ink.
  • The ink has also been used to mark cotton and linen textiles.
  • Avocado oil expressed from the pulp and seeds is used as hair-dressing and is employed in making facial creams, hand lotions and fine soap and pharmaceutical products.
  • In Brazil, 30% of the avocado crop is processed for oil, two-thirds of which is utilized in soap, on-third in cosmetics.
  • The pulp residue after oil extraction is usable as stock feed.
  • Avocado wood has been used for house building, light construction, furniture, cabinet making, agricultural implements, carving, sculptures, musical instruments, paddles, small articles like pen and brush holders, jewelry boxes and novelties.

Precautions

  • If you are on a low-calorie diet, you should avoid eating high amounts of avocado because it is a high-calorie food.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms such as mouth itches, swollen tongue, heavy breathing, or stomach pain, you may be allergic to avocado and should seek medical help.
  • If you are allergic to latex, that may be an indicator that you are allergic to avocado because there are findings that suggest a connection between the two.

Avocado facts

Avocado is a very potent, incredibly nutritious, and filling plant. They 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. It is rich in many minerals, vitamins, and different plant compounds, and is also beneficial for heart health and prevents arthritis. In case you are a person leading a healthy lifestyle, you can easily incorporate avocado into your diet. With all these great health benefits, is it no wonder that avocados are becoming such a popular choice for healthy dishes.

Recipe

How to Make Avocado Fries

Avocados may seem like an odd replacement for potatoes, but after they bake, these avocado fries truly take on a french fry—like texture. I was amazed at how fast they disappeared! When purchasing avocados for this recipe, choose firm ones so they are easy to slice and wrap.

  • Yield: 6 Servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
  • Cooking Time: 14 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 firm, barely ripe avocados
  • 1 (1-pound) package thin-cut bacon (20 slices)
  • 1 tablespoon Taco Seasoning
  • ½ cup salsa, for serving

How to Make It

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Peel and pit the avocados, then slice them into thick-cut french fry shapes. Wrap each slice with bacon and secure with a toothpick. Season with the taco seasoning.
  3. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Serve with salsa.

Nutritional value

Nutritional Value

Apart from their buttery and bland or nutlike taste, avocado is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Consuming 30 gram of avocado offers 4.62 g of Total Fat, 0.439 mg of Vitamin B5, 27 µg of Vitamin B9, 0.086 mg of Vitamin B6, 0.051 mg of Copper, 2 g of Total dietary Fiber, 6.3 µg of Vitamin K, 0.59 mg of Vitamin E, 0.574 mg of Vitamin B3 and 0.043 mg of Vitamin B2. Moreover many Amino acids  0.007 g of Tryptophan, 0.022 g of Threonine, 0.025 g of Isoleucin,  0.042 g of Leucine, 0.039 g of Lysine, 0.011 g of Methionine and 0.008 g of Cystine are also found in 30 gram of avocado.

Health benefits of Avocado

Avocados contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals including potassium, vitamin E, vitamin C, B vitamins, and folic acid. They are rich sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and dietary fiber with roughly 50 calories per 1-ounce serving. The high fat content of avocados promotes satiety; helps regulate blood sugar, aids in hormone regulation, and in the absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins.

In addition to monounsaturated fat, avocados also contain phytosterols, plant sterols that compete with cholesterol for absorption, thus helping reduce blood cholesterol levels. What’s more, research suggests that avocados may reduce markers of inflammation associated with heart disease.

Numerous studies show that it has powerful beneficial effects on health. Here are some of the health benefits of avocado that are supported by scientific research.

1. Help Prevent Cancer

There is limited proof that avocado may be beneficial in preventing cancer. One research showed that it may help reduce side effects of chemotherapy in human lymphocytes. Avocado extract has also been shown to prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells. However, keep in mind that these researches were done in isolated cells and don’t really prove anything about what happens in a living, breathing human.(1), (2)

2. Protects Your Eyesight

Not only does avocado help you with antioxidant absorption from other foods, but the fruit is also rich in antioxidants itself. Some of the antioxidants found in avocado are Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which are vital for eye health and eyesight. Some researches have come up with the results where these antioxidants are associated with the reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, particularly common in the elderly. As a result, consuming sufficient amount of avocado will provide your body with benefits for your eyes over the long term.(3), (4), (5), (6)

3. Provides Dental Care

Consumption of avocado will bring back the freshness in your breath. Many people struggle with bad breath due to indigestion or an upset stomach. Halitosis is the main cause of bad breath, but it can be removed by improving digestive health.

The antibacterial and antioxidant properties of flavonoids found in avocado help you get rid of bad breath because they have the ability to kill the bacteria in your mouth. Additionally, avocado has been related with preventing oral cancers.(7)

4. Contain More Potassium than Bananas

Potassium is a nutrient that most people aren’t getting enough of. This nutrient helps maintain electrical gradients in the body’s cells and serves various important functions. Avocados are actually very high in potassium… with a 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving containing 14% of the RDA, compared to 10% in bananas, which are a typical high potassium food. Several studies show that having a high potassium intake is related to reduced blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.(8), (9), (10)

5. Beneficial for Pregnant Women

One research concluded that, avocado is a great choice for pregnant women because it contains a great amount of folic acid, which is significant for preventing birth defects such as spina bifida and neural tube. The B vitamin is essential and this is the reason why doctors recommend high amounts of avocado intake before and during pregnancy. Avocado contains around 45 mcg of folate per half-cup; more than any other fruit. Vitamin K is yet another valuable nutrient for pregnant women.

Luckily for moms-to-be, it is also found in high concentration in avocado. Deficiency in vitamin K causes bleeding, or VKDB, which is a condition where newborn babies cannot stop bleeding because their blood does not contain enough Vitamin K. Consuming vitamin K rich fruits during pregnancy help you pass more of it to your unborn child.(11)

6. Good for Constipation

Despite their creamy texture, avocados are actually a high fiber food, with 8 grams of both soluble and insoluble fiber per cup of the fresh fruit.

This fiber is beneficial for improving digestion, encouraging regular bowel movements and well known to help prevent constipation. In fact, avocados are often recommended as a mild laxative for people having trouble going to the toilet. If you’ve been having problems with elimination, whether constipation or diarrhea, then getting more fiber-rich foods like avocados can definitely help keep you regular.

The fiber in avocados isn’t just good for constipation either, it also helps lower your risk of colon cancer and can even assist in losing weight by making you feel more full and wanting to eat less.