Keeping your eyes open in the field can result in some unusual finds. A recent observation that was sent in concerned an avocado fruit which didn't really have the shape of an avocado and certainly not the texture. It is a "woody avocado" as described by Professor Robert Hodgson of UCLA in 1935:
Hodgson, R. W. 1935. Avocado Fruit Abnormalities. California Avocado Association 1935 Yearbook 19: 108-109.
Dr. Art Schroeder at the same institution pursued it further, still with no clear cause for the condition:
Schroeder, C. A. 1953. Abnormal Fruit Types in the Avocado. California Avocado Society 1953-54 Yearbook. 38:121-124.
Mary Lu Arpaia and Reuben Hofshi revisited the issue of avocado fruit abnormalities in 2002:
Avocado Fruit Abnormalities and Defects Revisited
It is still not clear what causes this condition, other than it is not transmissible and does not occur very often.
The avocado is an amazing fruit. It grows on a tree and comes to maturity, reaches certain oil content and a stage at which it will ripen, but it does not ripen on the tree. It needs to be removed from the tree before it will soften. If the fruit is removed before it has reached maturity it will not soften, and will remain rubbery and inedible. One of the problems is that the fruit will hang on the tree for an extended period of time and it is hard to know when they are mature. Avocados are not like apricots where you have about 2 weeks to get the fruit off before it falls off. As the fruit stays on the tree in gradually develops more and more oil content and has a richer flavor.
If the fruit stays on the tree too long, the oil can develop and almost rancid flavor, however. So it is good to know when the best, acceptable flavor is. Avocado varieties fall into general seasonal periods when they are mature, such as Fuerte' and ‘Bacon” in winter, ‘Hass' in spring/summer, ‘Lamb-Hass' in summer/fall.
To assess maturity, take an unripe stage cut the fruit in half. Look at the seed coat. If the seed coat (the covering of the seed that separates it from the flesh) is white and thick, it is definitely not ready to pick. If it is whitish brown and getting thinner, then if you are desperate, you can try ripening the fruit and taste. If the seed coat is thin and brown, then usually this will mean that the fruit is ready to pick. If the seed has germinated already in the fruit then normally the fruit is over the hill. Some green skin varieties skin will begin to crack when the fruit are very mature on the tree. This will tell you when you have reached the end of the useful tree life of the fruit.
For ripening, pick the fruit and without any help, the fruit will typically be ripe in 7 to 10 days. If you want to speed things along a bit you can take 3 or 4 avocados and place them in a loosely closed paper bag with 2 – 3 Red or Golden Delicious apples or ripe kiwifruit. The purpose of the apples or kiwifruit is that these fruit produce a natural plant hormone, ethylene that will help stimulate the avocado to produce its own ethylene. Apples and kiwifruit are known to produce lots of ethylene. The Delicious apples are varieties that produce more ethylene than other apple varieties. You can keep them even after they are shriveled and they will be producing ethylene. Don't use a plastic bag unless you keep it opened since the fruit need to breathe during this process. Just keep the fruit on your kitchen counter or in a warm place. 68F is the ideal temperature. Lower and higher temperatures both actually slow the process.
Years of drought, and a stressed tree are a perfect set up for navel oranges and fruit splitting.
The days have turned cooler and suddenly out of nowhere there is rain. That wonderful stuff comes down and all seems right with the world, but then you notice the navel fruit are splitting. Rats! No, a dehydrated fruit that has taken on more water than its skin can take in and the fruit splits. This is called an abiotic disease. Not really a disease but a problem brought on by environmental conditions.
Fruit splitting is a long-standing problem in most areas where navel oranges are grown. In some years, the number of split fruit is high; in other years it is low. Splitting in navel oranges usually occurs on green fruit between September and November. In some years, splitting may also occur in Valencia oranges but it is less of a problem than in navel oranges.
Several factors contribute to fruit splitting. Studies indicate that changes in weather including temperature, relative humidity and wind may have more effect on fruit splitting than anything else. The amount of water in a citrus tree changes due to weather conditions and this causes the fruit to shrink and swell as water is lost or gained. If the water content changes too much or too rapidly the rind may split. In navel oranges the split usually occurs near the navel, which is a weak point in the rind.
Proper irrigation and other cultural practices can help reduce fruit splitting. Maintaining adequate but not excessive soil moisture is very important. A large area of soil around a tree should be watered since roots normally grow somewhat beyond the edge of the canopy. Wet the soil to a depth of at least 2 feet then allow it to become somewhat dry in the top few inches before irrigating again. Applying a layer of coarse organic mulch under a tree beginning at least a foot from the trunk can help conserve soil moisture and encourage feeder roots to grow closer to the surface.
If trees are fertilized, apply the correct amount of plant food and water thoroughly after it is applied. If the soil is dry, first irrigate, then apply fertilizer and irrigate again.
The first years of a tree's life are for building a structure for the future. Many varieties of trees are precocious and will bear fruit when they should be building structure. Letting a tree carry fruit when it is too young (under 2 years of age in the ground and some say 5 depending on the tree species) delays future good production and distorts the tree's architecture. A young avocado tree can be completely humbled (brought to ground literally) by the weight of the 12 ounce fruit. ‘Lamb Hass' wants to grow upright, but if the young tree is burdened with fruit early on, it will grow squat and twisted.
Another problem with precocious trees recently came up with ‘Meyer' lemon. Along the coast, this is a tree that will carry fruit throughout the year. It is a small tree naturally, but also because it puts so much energy into fruit production. If allowed to fruit to its full potential early, the canopy development is delayed and the fruit grows unprotected from winds. It is much more subject to wind scarring. Imagine the wind flailing the fruit around with no branches or leaves to protect it. Now the grower has a small, twisted fruit tree and fruit that can't be sold.
Give your young trees a chance to grow without the burden of carrying fruit to early. They are your children.
Imagine all this fruit on a one year old canopy
And this fruit is fully exposed to the elements and wind scarring
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