Let it be guacamole. Let it be chocolate avocado mouse with a sprinkle of cacao nibs across the top. Let it be a smushy spoonful spread across some bread, either toast or the topside of a sandwich. Let it be beautiful slices fanned atop a crisp bed of greens, a few seeds adding a delicious crunch right in the middle of the creamy, rich treat. Let it be blended and sweet in a smoothie. Let it be simply in the half shell with a little salt and lime juice.
Avocados are versatile crowd pleasers, serving up a heap of healthy fats and an unmistakable culinary experience. Whosoever doesn’t love avocados has lost their freaking mind. It does well on its own, in sauces, stuffed or as stuffing, fried, smooth or chunky. It’s an amazing ingredient that plays all over the spectrum.
Plus, it comes with an added bonus: For every avocado we open, therein lies the potential to grow our own avocado trees. That’s right! That hulking seed that we typically scoop out of the way as quickly as possibly, well, it behaves just like a seed. From it, we can grow a new tree. And, then, how many avocados will be at our disposal — for free?
Step One: Get the Seed and Get the Kids
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Kids: If you’ve got them, go get them. Growing an avocado is wicked fun because the whole process happens clear as day, right before our very eyes. Once the kids are watching, rinse the seed well, cleaning off whatever sliver-ous delight of avocado might have clung to it. Try not to damage any part of the seed, such as cutting it with a knife or removing the brown casing around the seed itself.
Step Two: Learn the Top from Bottom
All avocado seeds have a top and bottom. Some are obviously oblong with the bottom being the fatter, flatter end and the pointy top being the spot from which the sprout will spring. However, many seeds are almost completely spherical, so if that is the case, pay attention to which end is pointing towards the stem (or where the stem was) and that is the top.
Step Three: A New Take on Toothpicks and Seeds
Using three or four toothpicks, evenly spaced, create a sort of avocado seed stand a bit towards the bottom of the seed. This will be used to hold the seed, the bottom partially suspended in water and the top high and dry. Then, fill a glass with water and position the skewered avocado over the top of it. A clear glass is best so that the kids can see when the root begins to form. Put it on a shady windowsill where it’s easy to keep an eye on.
Step Four: Waiting and Watching
Next is a game of patience. The seed will take a while to germinate. Make sure that it stays submerged in water and that the water is changed every few days. If it ever dries out, then the experiment is over and must start anew. After a couple or three weeks, the seed should crack. Another three or four weeks and the taproot should appear. In another couple of weeks, the stem should start to peak out.
- If by three months this hasn’t happened, it’s time to start again. That’s life on the farm. Not all seeds carry the magic.
Step Five: Planting It
Let the root get about three inches and the stem to an inch or more, and then it is ready to plant in actual soil. Bury about two-thirds of the seed, leaving the top end sticking out of the soil. A little clay pot, maybe six inches or more should do at first. Make sure that there is good drainage by putting gravel or something similar in the bottom, but keep the soil moist for the first week.
Step Six: Full On Cultivation
Avocado trees can grow to a few feet tall in no time. For a bushier houseplant, pinch the top off every time it adds a foot or two. This will make it produce strong branches before getting too tall. However, prune it minimally as the younger trees aren’t always crazy about letting go of their progress. Be sure to keep it watered, but that the soil itself doesn’t stay too wet. Avocados are subject to root rot. A good idea is to spritz the leaves with spray bottle.
Step Seven: Keeping It Healthy
After that, the little seed will have officially become a tree. A bigger pot, something in the eighteen-inch range will probably be appropriate. The tree will need to be indoors if winters are cold, anything below fifty degrees. If the leaves go yellow and fall off, there is either an overabundance of water or lack of sunlight. Brown around the edges means they need more humidity, i.e. spray bottle. If leaves just start to turn yellow, add a little compost or compost tea, especially during summer, when the growth happens.
Step Eight: Realistic Expectations
While avocado trees are easy enough to grow, that doesn’t mean we can actually expect the fruit to be what its parent’s was. In actuality, multiple avocado trees make for more likely germination, and the trees from which our market avocados grow are generally grafted to control how the plant fruits. Growing from seed may very well produce fruits, but they can actually be quite different from their parents, just like we are. Regardless, it’s a fun project.
Lead image source: Rebecca Dongallo/Flickr