Food: The green, fleshy avocados have disappeared from our gardens. The smooth, sweet fruit is a source of good health

As kids, growing up in Bangalore meant living in bungalows, with large gardens, filled with fruit trees. And, there were certainly two or three avocado (Persea americana) trees in each garden, which would fruit with such abundance, we had enough and more to share with all the neighbours and friends.

And the only way we knew to eat them then, was strip the skin off the fruit and then mash up the green and golden yellow flesh with sugar and a dash of sour lime juice. The flesh slipped through the prongs of the fork just like butter does. That is why most people in Bangalore call the avocado “butter fruit”!

Sadly with the loss of garden space, the little open areas around apartment blocks sport fancy lawns and exotic flowering trees; we have forgotten how to grow the avocado. It could make a come back if people knew how easy it is to grow here in Bangalore.

N. Arun Kumar, a student from St. Joseph’s College says, “I haven’t really eaten too many avocados, but the milkshake made with them is really creamy and smooth. There is a tree in my colony where it fruits luxuriously every year, and everyone gets to take home some of the soft ripe fruits. The good thing is it doesn’t occupy too much space and the tree will bear fruit in about five to six years.”

Just buy a couple of good quality avocado or butter fruit from a local fruit vendor and sink the large seed into a pot filled with compost. In a few weeks the seeds will sprout and you will get your very own beautiful, large-leaved sapling. Leave them to grow in the pot till they are at least three feet tall before transplanting them into the ground.

They do need a little care initially till they stabilise and then you don’t need to bother too much, just give it a mug of water a day. Alternately, plant the seed straight into the soil, but also in a generous bed of compost.

“The good thing about avocados is that they hardly need any care in Bangalore and grow in the soil without the need to add any nutrients; just a little watering,” reveals Mohan C. Padman, an author who lives in Cooke Town. “The only error was a friend stored the picked fruit in a sealed plastic bucket and they all became mildewed. They should be wrapped in newspaper, or just left in a bowl on the table to soften and ripen.”

An avocado tree is fairly slim and is of a medium height before it begins to fruit. So we can replant all the avocado trees we lost in Bangalore in a jiffy, if each one decides to have a tree in their compound.

In fact, as Mohan succinctly sums up the story, “I live on the third floor in an apartment behind which a huge avocado tree grows in a lucky neighbour’s house. Most of the fruit fall unnoticed to the ground and I plucked a large fruit almost popping through my window. When the potted fruit began sprouting, I planted it in my friend’s back yard. In three years the young tree produced dozens of fruit, and this without him looking after it at all. So, if each family grew a plant in Bangalore we would have ample green cover, and fruit to boot!”

And if you did not know, avocados are a good source of fibre, potassium, and vitamins C, K, and B6. Half an avocado has 160 calories, and 15 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Enjoy!