We Grew a Cocktail Avocado!

This morning Kelly alerted me to the latest avocado news making its way around the internet tubes. Apparently a chain of grocery stores in Great Britain, worried about the lack of knife skills in our young folks (ugh), is marketing a seedless “cocktail” avocado.

What is a cocktail avocado? Some deep Googling revealed that they aren’t some new variety, just un- or under pollinated Fuerte avocado. Since we have a Fuerte tree in our backyard, I decided to do a deeper form of Googling, which involved prying myself away from the internet tubes and going outside for some first hand investigation. Ka-ching! I found a cocktail avocado that I plan on selling to a knife challenged Brit for a high and undisclosed price.

So how do cocktail avocados happen? Avocado pollination is one of the more complicated mysteries of nature for which I will turn to UC Davis for an explanation,

The first or female stage remains open for only 2 or 3 hours. The flower then closes and remains closed the rest of the day and that night. The following day it opens again. But now the stigma will no longer receive pollen. Instead, the flower is now shedding pollen. That is, each flower is female at its first opening, male at its second. After being open several hours the second day, the flower closes again, this time for good. If it had been successfully pollinated at the first opening, and if other conditions are right, it will develop into a delicious fruit.

People mistakenly think that avocados trees are either male or female. In fact, they are all both. The differences between trees are about when the timing of this alternate gendered flowering occurs. UC Davis goes on to explain,

Nature has provided for avocado cross-pollination by creating varieties of two kinds. The “A” type is female in the morning of the first day and male in the afternoon of the second day (when the weather is warm). The “B” type is just the reverse: its flowers are female in the afternoon and male the following morning.

The fact that we have two hives of honeybees in our backyard and lots of other avocado trees in the neighborhood means that we don’t get a lot of cocktail avocados. I could not find any information about the methods of cocktail avocado growers (located in Spain). I suspect they are either using nets to exclude bees or they are just selectively harvesting the cocktail avocados that naturally occur on every tree.

Spider Bite!

My sincerest apologies for beginning your week with a picture of two festering arachnid bites, but that’s what Mondays are for.

These particular arachnid bites belong to UCSD alumni pal Professor Nic, who is visiting us from Canada, the greatest of nations. The bites sent him to the very same Kaiser emergency room that saved Kelly’s life last year. Unfortunately, modern medicine lacks any kind of test that would reveal the scientific name of the perpetrator.

Kelly and I immediately pinned the blame on the infamous Brown Recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa). But, according to the LA County Natural History Museum’s extraordinarily useful book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, the Los Angeles basin has no brown recluses in residence. According to that same book, the most likely perp is the Long-legged Sac spider (Cheiracanthium species).

When disturbed they draw the pair of forelegs back and in, forming a cage around the body . . . These spiders have relatively strong, long fangs and have been known to bite humans, causing a wound that is painful and slow to heal.

Professor Nic captured a photo, in his Corian® bejeweled Airbnb, of the likely perp when he got back from the ER and it looks exactly like the Long-legged Sac spider in the NHM book. Don’t worry, he later released it to the hipster wilds of Echo Park.

Unlike the Brown Recluse, Long-legged sac spiders employ reputation management consultants to keep their nefarious activities out of the news. They live in the corners of rooms and even, according to the NHM book, take up residence in household appliances. So dust out that Vitamix periodically!

Lest we fall into a spider hating hole, allow me to close with some of my own, unpaid spider reputation management. I believe that we should give our our children plush, stuffed spider toys for Christmas instead of teddy bears to instill in them a love of all things Araneae. Spiders are a vital part of the web of life (pun intended) . We should cast off our fear of them and respect the work they do in keeping down the population of other insects. In Southern California the only spider to treat with caution and respect is the Western Black Widow (Latrodectus hesperus). While a spider bite from a Long-legged Sac spider is painful, it’s not going to cause serious consequences.

Why You Shouldn’t Grow an Avocado From a Pit

Consider this a brief public service announcement for readers in the tragically narrow avocado growing zone by way of a short review of basic plant biology.

I see a lot of grow-an-avocado-from-a-pit tutorials on the interwebs. It’s a great project for both kids and adults. If you’d like an avocado houseplant, by all means grow one from a pit. If, however, you live somewhere where avocados grow outside (USDA zones 8 through 11) and intend to plant your seedling outside, you should buy a tree from a nursery. Why? Bees love to pollinate avocado flowers. If you plant an avocado seed you’ll get some weird cross between the many different avocado varieties. Odds are it won’t taste good and who wants to water a tree for nine years only to get a bushel of foul avocados?

So to review: if you’d like a houseplant go ahead and plant that pit. If you’d like to keep your hipsters supplied with avocado toast buy a tree from a nursery or learn the art of avocado seedling grafting.

111 Cardoons, Medlars and Hipster Toilets

On the podcast this week, Kelly and I read and respond to listener questions and comments about cardoons, medlars and Toto’s Eco Promenade toilet! Here’s some links to the topics we rap about:

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

110 A Report from the 2017 National Heirloom Expo

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On the podcast this week are three interviews I recorded at the 7th annual National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, California in the first week of September 2017. The organizers of the expo, Baker Creek Seeds, hold a press conference in the midst of the fair and that gave me the chance to talk to some really interesting folks including:

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.