AVOCADO

2 December 2011

When I was in 3rd class we moved to a new house at Balmoral Beach. In fact, Mum and Dad are still there. The house itself has changed a lot over the years, as you might expect, but there are some things that continue to resonate every time I return.

I was reminded of this just the other day as I watched my son and nephew slide down the steep wooden stairs, just as my brother and I had done 25 years ago.

Another thing that never changed is the massive avocado tree in the backyard. Every year, provided you could scare away the fruit bats and possums, there was a massive bounty of fruit for the picking.

Mum’s tree is a Sharwill, a 1950’s Australian hybrid that is wonderfully suited to temperate conditions. Further north you’d be growing Hass or Reed cultivars. Its mottled green skin made it hard to spot amongst the leaves come harvest time, but with our specially designed pronged pole we’d dislodge the prize avocadoes into the fitted catching bag beneath.

They weren’t always ripe, however, but this is perfectly normal. You see avocadoes are climacteric – in other words they mature on the tree, but ripen off the tree. The fruit needs to develop sufficient oil reserves while growing so that when picked this oil can convert into sugars and water through respiration. That’s the ripening process.

Ripening can be brought on using a gas called ethylene. Plumbers use ethylene for welding, but it has much more delicious purposes. If you don’t have a commercial supply of ethylene at home (no, me neither!) then you’re going to have to get creative. Bananas produce ethylene gas as part of their ripening process. So by putting a couple of bananas in a plastic bag with some avocadoes, in a day or so you’ll have soft sweet avocadoes ready to eat.

But here’s their thing. An avocado that was picked before it was mature (too low an oil count) will never ripen, even if exposed to ethylene. So harvesting correctly is a must.

Still every time I hoe into an avocado o toast for breakfast, or whip up a quick guacamole, I’m somehow transported back. The world is bigger, simpler, and quieter, and I’m watching the lizards in the dirt under the shade of Mum’s avocado tree.
Beef and avocado burritos

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