Although strange enough that this tasty guacamole staple is considered a fruit, a less known fact is that, within the category of fruit, the avocado is technically a berry! Unlike cherries and blueberries, though, avocado trees produce large fruits that range in weight from 1/2–3 lbs each, depending on the variety. Native to Mexico and Central and South America, the avocado tree does best in climates that mimic its homeland and should be grown outdoors only in the warmer regions of the US (USDA Zones 9 and up). Within these climate zones, different varieties will do better than others based on temperature and soil quality, so be sure to research your options before selecting a tree for your home.
The Fuerte avocado is a mix between Mexican and Guatemalan varietals brought to California in 1911 by horticulturist Carl Schmidt who had been sent south of the border to seek out new avocado varieties for American consumers. The Fuerte avocado is a cold hardy, medium-sized fruit with smooth, green skin that peels easily, revealing tender, delicious flesh. Although less popular than the Hass, the Fuerte is a great choice for those lucky enough to live in avocado-friendly climate zones as it has a rich, nutty flavor and less oily texture than other types.
Seed: Not recommended since it’s quite difficult and the resulting plants will not remain true to type. Fruits will not be the same as the original and will take 5–7 years to show up. If you’re the adventurous type and wanna try it out, go for it! We’d love to hear how it goes.
Seed Depth: Plant with 1/2 of sprouted seed exposed above soil.
Space Between Plants: 7–20′
Space Between Rows: 25′
Germination Soil Temperature: 60–70°F
Sow Indoors: With the aid of toothpicks, place seed in a glass with 1″ of the flat side submerged in water in a dark warm place. Roots will sprout in 2-6 weeks. When stem is 7″ tall, trim to 3″ to produce stronger roots. Transplant in pot or outdoors after new leaf growth.
Sow Outdoors: Not recommended.
Vegetative: We recommend grafting desirable cultivars onto stable rootstocks to produce fruit sooner than seeding.
Thrives outdoors in USDA zones 9–11. The avocado is a tropical or subtropical tree that requires good soil, steady drainage, and lots of sunlight. Regions such as Southern California have the ideal climate for growing this emerald beauty. Although the Fuerte variety can withstand temperatures as low as 26°F, protection from frost may be necessary.
Natural: Full sun.
Artificial: Bright light that mimics full sun, such as HID lamps, is preferred. These are better suited than fluorescent and promote flowering while decreasing chances of legginess.
Soil: Can tolerate a variety of soil types, but a common theme between them all is good drainage. A pH of 6.2–6.5 is ideal. If your soil is sandy, mix in compost for added nutrients and to provide a loose, fast-draining medium.
Soilless: Does well in expanded clay pellets.
Hydroponics: Thrives in hydroponic systems.
Aeroponics: Avocado was one the first plants to be experimentally grown in an aeroponic system. Studies confirm that avocado’s dig it.
Water: These trees do not like to have wet feet, so good drainage is very important. Feel your soil: if it’s damp, do not water it. You can also mist the leaves, but be careful not to create an inviting environment for fungus. A drip or irrigation system may be beneficial to deliver steady but small amounts of water evenly to the soil.
Nutrients: Completely dose the soil with the holy trinity of nutrients—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—by using aged compost. Using dolomite lime will also add magnesium to the soil. To add calcium without heavily altering the pH, use crushed eggshells or gypsum.
Foliar: A fish emulsion or sea kelp dilution may be supplemented foliarly but is not necessary.
Pruning: Pruning is very important for the avocado. For full details, see Helpful Links.
Mulching: Benefits from mulching, which will suppress weed and fungal soil growth.
Deficiency(s): A zinc deficiency can be recognized by a leaf discoloration known as chlorosis. Apply compost rich in cow manure about a foot from the base of the tree to correct.
Companions: Under your avocado tree, plant small flowering herbs and flowers to attract pollinating bees, such as rosemary, borage, and lavender. Banana trees make good companions for avocado trees. Remember: don’t let them be lonely! Plant at least two avocados to allow cross pollination and highest yield fruit production.
Harvest: From flower to fruit can take anywhere from 6–8 months. The color change of their skin to a nice uniform dark green will indicate maturity. After being picked, ripeness ensues in 10–12 days. For best flavor results, do not harvest from the tree early.
Storage: Store unripe avocados at room temperature to promote natural ripening. To speed up this process, place near other ripened fruit, such as bananas. Eat at peak ripeness; otherwise, you have about 3 days of refrigeration until the avocado gets sad and old.
Tips: Remember that, although avocados sport true flowers (both male and female parts), they go through gendered stages at different periods in the growing season. Thus, avocados will produce with one tree, but we advise growing at least two to up your yield.
History: While the Hass avocado is now the reigning varietal in the US in terms of availability and per capita consumption, the Fuerte used to hold this crown prior to the 1930s. Although many folks would attest that the Hass is superior in taste to most other varieties, the Fuerte was likely only dethroned due to its softer skin, which made it a less viable option for commercial production as it bruised easily while being transported.
Preserve: If saving half or part of an avocado, sprinkle lemon or lime juice directly on the avocado and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
Prepare: Avocados are usually eaten raw and don’t cook well (cooking usually brings out a bitterness that is quite unappetizing). Mash together with tomatoes and onions for a fresh guacamole or simply slice and add to any salad. The rich buttery flavor is complemented well by sour acidic flavors like balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. They can also be blended and mixed with milk for a chilled drink or turned into a savory ice cream. Yum.
Nutritional: Avocado is known for its high content of healthy fats (about 0.6 oz), from which most of the energy of the fruit comes. Avocados are also rich in dietary fiber, vitamin(s) B-6, C, and K, and have more potassium then bananas!
Medicinal: Avocados can naturally lower blood cholesterol levels. Essential oils extracted from the fruit have been utilized in dry skin creams and topical solutions for healing wounds.
Warnings: Allergies to avocado can be common, so watch for signs of redness or irritation when handling.
We don’t know about you, but we certainly don’t have any problem eating avocados right out of the skin with a spoon. If you’re looking for something perhaps a bit more, ahem, cultured… try this Ultimate 4-Layer Vegan Sandwich with tomatoes, avocados and sun-dried tomato basil pesto!
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