high in oil content but not bitter and a soft, silky flesh but not sweet

Avocado trees are attractive, broad-leaved evergreens. The yellow-green flesh of the fruits is rich in monounsaturated oil and protein. It’s low in sugar and cholesterol and full of vitamins, minerals, calcium, iron and potassium.

Avocados are subtropical trees, native to Central and South America, and they grow best in semi-humid climates with moderate temperatures.

For the purposes of cross-pollination avocados are split into A and B groups. If a variety from each group is planted together they’ll cross-pollinate and each tree will produce more fruit than if grown on its own. The fruits take different amounts of time to mature from flowering, so the fruiting season will also be extended. If you only have room for one tree, the A groups tend be more self-fertile and will set better on their own than the B group.

The most popular variety for home gardens is the pebbly-skinned ‘Hass’ (A type) with its long harvest season, excellent flavour and good flesh-to-seed ratio. ‘Hass’ fruits from July until the following February or March and from October to May. ‘Reed’ (A type and ripening from February to May) has great quality fruit with delicious, creamy flesh. ‘Reed’ is a green skin fruit with a hard shell-type skin, so it can a bit tricky to know when it’s ripe. With a thicker skin than ‘Hass’, the flesh will only give very slightly when gently pressed. ‘Fuerte’ (B type) is another excellent variety, which has large fruit with very nutty flavoured flesh, ripening from August to October. ‘Bacon’ (B type) is the most cold-tolerant of all varieties and ripens from June to August.

The secret to growing an avocado tree is good drainage. If the tree’s root system is saturated for a prolonged period of time it may get a disease called root rot or phytophthora. Symptoms include no new growth, very small fruit, and leaf yellowing and wilting. If the problem is severe, a tree may die or survive in poor health for many years. You can prevent root rot by providing good drainage and not over-watering. Avocados are also sensitive to root disturbance when planting, so take great care when handling the roots of the tree as this can also cause its collapse.

You can grow an avocado tree easily from the stone, but there’s no guarantee it’ll fruit and even if it does, it may take many years.

You’re better off purchasing a grafted tree, even though it will still take around 3-5 years to fruit.

Plant your avocado slightly higher than it was growing in the original container. Choose full sun and well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5-6.5. Avoid windy locations, as the trees are prone to breakage.

An avocado is a tree that thrives on a really good layer of mulch. The carbon content of the soil needs to be built up through leaf litter, sawdust and woody materials.

Avocado trees mature to a height of 5 to 15 metres and are as wide as they are high, so give them plenty of space. If trees get too big it becomes difficult to harvest the fruit. It’s best to keep them at around 5-8 metres by pruning. The best time to prune is in spring, to reinvigorate the tree with new growth.

Avocados stay hard on the tree and soften only after they’re picked. They’re ready to harvest when they reach full size and the skin starts to change colour. Pick one and let it sit indoors for a day or two. If the stem end doesn’t shrivel or turn dark, you can pick others the same size. You don’t need to pick them all at once, but don’t leave them on the tree too long either or they’ll begin to lose flavour. Harvest avocados by cutting the fruit from the tree, leaving a small piece of stem attached. Handle carefully to avoid bruising. Avocados are ready to eat when they yield slightly when you squeeze them.

And finally, take care when disposing of the skin of an avocado and the leaves of the tree. Both are toxic to pets and stock, so we recommend you don’t put them in your compost.