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March 6, 2007 > The Avocado seed

The Avocado seed

By Pat Kite

I have actually succeeded in sprouting an avocado seed! This marvelous achievement is now one-inch high. It sits on my kitchen counter where it is complimented every day for bravery, beauty, and brilliance. Some people might sneer at this. They have, perhaps, dropped an avocado seed into a pot of soil, where, like Topsy, it grew into a stunning tree. This is unlike my marvelous achievement, which contemplated its non-existent navel for almost a month before it started to even think about sprouting a few roots. It took another few weeks to split open. Then, finally, the piece de resistance, a little greenish nub.

This is my umpteenth time trying to grow an avocado from its large seed. Mostly I grow mold. But, theoretically, I do know how to do it. Let me share: Take a seed from a large ripe avocado. Poke three toothpicks, like a belt, into the avocado seed's middle. Place the seed in a jar, pointy side up. Jelly or jam jars often work well. The seed will, hopefully, be held up by the toothpick belt. Fill the jar with lukewarm water that covers the seed about halfway. Place the jar in a warmish, semi-shade to shade, site. Keep the water level slightly above the middle of the avocado seed. Then wait. First long white roots emerge, and then the seed starts to split. Eventually a green sprout emerges. When that gets big enough to look hardy, you can very gently place the whole shebang in a pot, holding it in place while you drop potting soil around it. Handle very gently. If the seed splits completely, or the roots snap off, the plant is doomed. Put in a warm sunny place, and keep soil slightly damp at all times. If you have youngsters in the vicinity, you can try this project with several avocado seeds. You can use different kinds of seeds, or different growing surroundings. It makes a nice science project, but must be started well in advance.

Debatably, avocados can be traced back to the third century B.C. The name avocado is supposed to come from the Central American Indian word "ahuacatl." This word is said to be an abbreviation of the Aztec description of the avocado tree, "Ahuacacuahatl," which I won't translate because this is a family newspaper.

There are several avocado varieties now on the market. Fuerte is one of the most commonly seen in the marketplace. In theory, several can be grown in the Tri-City: Bacon, Duke, Haas, and Mexicola. They demand good drainage, sun, and frequent light watering. The avocado you start indoors from seed does not, according to all researched reports, ever achieve avocados. I have seen it as a pretty 3-foot-high houseplant. It can grow higher. Besides Guacamole, try mashed avocado pulp spread on bread. Long ago, in Britain, it was called "midshipman's butter," because it stored better on ships than butter. Try an avocado sandwich sometimes. Tasty!

Happy planting season has begun! Best fun, Pat

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