December is avocado time at our house, and the big tree in the backyard delivered just in time. On Sunday, December 7, 2008, I went out back looking to see if any had fallen and found three. One was more than two pounds and buttery perfect. Half got converted into guacamole for Kid 1, another quarter was put into a giant turkey sandwich for me, and the rest is nestling a lemon slice in the fridge to keep it from turning brown. These are the gifts from our tree. Believe it or not, I tell that tree every now and then how grateful I am for its creamy, giant fruit.
At our house, Sharwil avocado season begins in December and lasts until sometime in February. The stormiest of days, with their gale-force winds swinging the boughs, cannot cause the avocados to fall until they are ready. And yet, the wood is so brittle that if a person were to climb it, the branches would break right off. Harvesting usually involves climbing on the wall and using a mango picker, or waiting for the bombs to land on the ground, hopefully onto a soft spot, with a solid thud.
Our avocado tree is probably 30 years old, if not older, planted long ago by my mother- and father-in-law years ago when they were raising their four daughters and their one son. They remember the yard having plumeria, mango, orange and lychee trees, and being tortured at breakfast by daily servings of back-yard grown papaya. By the time we moved in, a few years after we had married, with a 2-year-old in tow and a baby just a few weeks shy of being born, our yard had been converted into an extension of our house, a relaxing escape where we grow the avocado, Meyer lemon, Baehr and kafir lime trees, as well as various herbs, chili peppers and lavender. Giant agave and red leeia create natural bounds of privacy for our cats and kids. Last year a coconut sprung in our yard. I like it.
A few years back, during those rainy 40 days and 40 nights from all of February through half of March in 2006, two giant limbs came crashing down. Fortunately the girls were in the house. But it was a dramatic way to start the day, and quite the cleanup. I thought our tree was dying, but it didn’t. A new branch sprang forth within the year, and perhaps next year it will bear fruit.
Each spring I would venture to say the tree, all 30-40 feet of it, pushes out a million or more blooms. Thousands become tiny avocados the size of a pinky fingernail. Hundreds grow into fruit, and about half are harvested. Some fall into the ditch that runs behind our house, some fall into the neighbor’s yard, some fall onto our tall coral wall and split in half before they are exactly right, rendering them useless. And some fall into places we never find until we do a complete scouring of the yard, months later. We’ve had to pull many seedlings out of the ground as only grafted trees yield fruit.
Unfortunately, I’m at a loss as to what to do with all of our avocados. Guacamole is a given, as is sliced for sandwiches and diced for salads. But what about soup or salad dressing? What about whipped and herbed as a butter to melt on a steak? Or as a facial mask? After a while, I’m happy to see the last of the avocados go black on the kitchen counter, in the garage, on the washer, on the dryer, on the ground.
By the time the pupu-lovin’ Super Bowl is over, we’ve had nearly two solid months of avocados in some style at some meal each day. I’ve shared them with neighbors and friends. I’ve even made friends with them! I’d fill a bag and board the morning express bus with them, handing them out to my commuting companions and taking the remainder for my colleagues at work.
An avocado tree, a lemon tree, a lime tree, basil, and chili peppers do more than sustain a family. They give me a chance to draw others toward their own culinary adventures. It is fun to trigger such a domino effect by handing them a lemon, an avocado, a sprig of rosemary.
Home-grown goodness can become an extension of your heart. Love on.