SAM SAYS: Fruits of Labor

I’ve got a couple partners in most of the crimes I commit these days. Sam and Taryn. They are wonderful colleagues and friends and they listen, oh how they listen, to my tales of woe or joy. Sometimes they practice some pretty tough love, but I know its love.

Sam and Taryn will be joining me periodically to share their thoughts about greening – mine and theirs. Today, Sam is weighing in on the happiness of simple successes!

My Avocado Tree

Persea americana popped into the botanical framework of south-central Mexico as far back as 7,000 B.C., but the avocado fruit wasn’t domesticated until around 750 B.C., as demonstrated by a handful of seeds dug up with Incan mummies in Peru.

Although I turned five-years-old over twenty years ago, I decided to throw myself a Tex-Mex birthday party this year complete with sombreros, maracas, a piñata, and scrumptious Southwestern snacks.

When the piñata had been smashed and it was time to recycle bottles of Dos Equis, I noticed fifteen avocado pits rolling around in an empty guacamole bowl.

I found myself, like the Incan mummies, unable to toss the seeds. If only because I’d spent two dollars on each Hass, the pits seemed valuable to me, like some sort of primitive currency. So I carefully washed and dried each pit, stored them in a ziplock bag, and managed to convince myself this was all very normal.

After a little research, I pushed a few toothpicks into each pit around its middle. With the pointy sides up, I suspended each pit over a plastic cup filled with water and stored them on my mantle, a well-lit place, although not in direct sunlight.

I waited a few weeks. My roommates requested that I take the pits down. I waited a few more weeks. House guests assured me that commercial avocado seeds don’t sprout. I returned the water to the brim of the cups every day. I peeled brown flaky skin off the pits when they started to mold. I started eating mounds of pesto so I could switch the plastic cups out with glass jars. I cared for the despondent pits for about four months.

Finally, around the start of spring, I noticed a thick white root shooting out from the bottom of one of the larger seeds, which had almost entirely split in half. Baby roots are starting to drop from four or five of the smaller pits as well. Admittedly small signs of growth, but enough to make me want to salvage more pits from the trash.

Some avocado trees can grow upwards of 500 pieces of fruit a year, but its doubtful mine will grow any. It can take over 7-15 years for a tree to begin yielding avocados and the taste we love is a by-product of careful grafting, so even an avocado grove in the living room is just the first step.

Why grow something that can’t bear fruit? I have a feeling these little fellows will shape up to be nice house plants, plus sometimes aesthetic pleasure is more in the process of creating than in the creation itself.

California Avocado Commission: Great resource, with recipes, growing tips, interviews of California growers, and avocado FAQs.

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