By Rick Gush, Urban Farm contributor
Friday, November 25, 2011
Photo by Rick Gush
When I was a nurseryman in California, customers would often ask about growing miniature avocado trees in their small gardens. Back then, we’d advise gardeners how to maintain a rigorous pruning regimen that would keep an avocado at 8 feet tall. These days, there are a lot of dwarf avocado trees on the market, so all that heavy pruning is no longer required.
The other miniature avocados that are commonly discussed are the un-pollinated fruits that Fuerte avocado trees will sometimes produce. There are some growers now that deliberately produce these odd fruits, which look like cucumbers, and market them as “cocktail avocados.”
The miniature avocados that I want to talk about today are the smallest regular avocado fruits. These little fruits are only about 4 inches long, and they’re shaped like a regular long-necked avocado. I didn’t see these fruits in the markets when I lived in the United States, but here in Liguria every fall, there are crates full of locally grown miniature avocados for sale in the local fruit and vegetable markets. This isn’t a fruit bothered with by agribusiness, and is instead mostly grown by small farmers with a few miniature avocado trees mixed in their gardens. These tiny avocados have a very thin, edible skin, so I can just grab a fruit and take a bite without having to bother peeling it. Somehow, that makes these delicious fruits very attractive to me.
These little-fruited avocados are available to a certain extent in the U.S. nursery trade, and I think more people should consider growing them. They are obviously in the thin-skinned Mexican family of avocado types, and back in my nursery days, I did see a few trees of this type for sale under the name Mexicola. I’ll bet a determined gardener could find some nursery stock available today.
For gardeners and small farmers, avocados are fairly easy to grow. There are a few potentially horrible pests, but checking with a local agricultural extension should allow one to defend against problems. Probably the biggest problem with avocados, even with the Mexicola, is that the trees are pretty big, and making arrangements to be able to get up into the tree and harvest and prune can be a major ladder engagement.
Avocados will grow in most any type of soil, but they don’t like windy areas because the wind can interfere with pollination. Obviously, avocados also prefer temperate and tropical climates, so avocados in Minnesota aren’t such a great idea. The good news about these mini-fruited Mexicola type trees is that they are probably the most cold-hardy of all the avocados. Getting snowed on every few years doesn’t bother the trees here in Liguria.
In Italy, these little avocado fruits are called palte [paul-tay], which is the Spanish word for avocados. These trees are tremendous and should be more highly considered in the warmer areas of the United States. If one can get a hold of a few fruits somewhere, the rest is relatively easy; palte seem to produce fine, heavily fruiting trees from seed.
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