Sunday, May 27, 2007

Avocados

Avocado fruits are among the more expensive fruits in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The fruits are imported from Australia and sold in supermarkets to expatriates and to the few locals who have acquired a taste for them. The majority of Malaysians and Singaporeans think avocadoes are awfully bland, or just plain awful.

However, in the Malaysian state of Sabah, close to the Philippines, where there is a large population of immigrants from the Philippines, avocadoes are cheap, locally grown, and sold by roadside hawkers. The quality, size and shape of the locally-grown fruits is very variable.

The avocado is native to tropical America, and was introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish in the 1600s. The Philippinos have had 400 years to learn to love the fruit, but according to Burkill's Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, it was not love at first sight.

The Indonesians got their first taste in the 1700s. They have learnt to love the fruits, and blend it with palm sugar to make a rich nutritious drink.

Avocados were introduced to Malaysia and Singapore by the British in the late 1800s. British rubber planters often had an avocado or two growing in their bungalow gardens.

In all the books on growing avocados, we are told that single trees will not fruit because they need cross-pollination by another tree. The trees in Malaysia ignore this rule. Single trees often produce good crops of fruits. However, after having experimented with avocados for over 30 years, I can say they are extremely variable in behaviour. I have seen trees begin to fruit at 5 years, trees that did not fruit until after 10 years, trees that never fruited at all in 20 years. Fruits vary in size, shape, colour, smoothness / roughness of the skin, thickness of the flesh, quality of the flesh (creamy, lumpy, etc). A lot of work will have to be done in testing and selection before we can have a good reliable clone for our particular climatic and soil conditions.

To grow an avocado it is best to use a seed from a tree that is proven locally (e.g. known to produce abundant fruit of good quality at an early age). Seeds from another country may produce healthy trees but such trees are likely to be unfruitful.

31 comments:

Sham said...

Interesting read about avocado. I am currently the proud owner of a 1 feet tall avocado tree and I live in a condo! I was looking for information on how to grow this tree in this part of the world. I will be transferring this tree to the ground soon. Any good advice?

Dr Francis Ng said...

Avocados are easy to grow. Your seedling will probably still be attached to its seed. Plant the seedling so that the attached seed is just below soil level, and water daily.

Singfling said...

I would love to buy a small self-fruiting avocado tree which is likely to bear fruit in the next year but can't seem to find any in the nurseries in Singapore. I don't suppose you know of any nurseries in Malaysia where they may sell some?

Dr Francis Ng said...

I do not know of any avocado that will fruit in one year. 6 years would be realistic but only from a known mother tree. Try to locate a fruiting tree in your area and ask the owner for a seed to plant.

tricia said...

you mean it takes at least 6 years minimum for an avocado tree to fruit and that itself is indefinite?

Dr Francis Ng said...

My best tree took about 6 years to flower. After that it flowered every year. I have also grown trees that did not flower even after 10 years.

Alfons said...

Hi my wife and I love avocado and have planted several Avocado trees over the years. Yes it does take at least 4 years or more to flower and bear fruits. We have now started a new little garden that is going to be our permanent home on a plateau at 2,800 feet above sea level and we have plans to plant lots of herbs, flowers and tropical fruit trees including avocados. At the moment we have planted 30 avocado trees of which 8 have already started to flower. We are keen to network with other tropical fruit lovers to share ideas and information on a variety of issues relating to maintenance and storage. If anyone is interested please feel free to visit our website at http://www.eagleplateau.co.nr

Dr Francis Ng said...

Alfons, I was unable to access your website for some unknown reason. Which country does nr code for?

Rin Da said...

a friend of my father in law has a farm which grows avocado trees. it is in johor. i was amazed by the size of the fruit. they looked like giant avocados compared to the expensive ones from supermarkets. i always thought avocados were grown in cold countries. i really appreciate it when i can actually get inexpensive avocados from my hometown. cool...

Dr Francis Ng said...

The avocadoes in supermarkets have been standardised to fit a fixed number into a box. This applies to fruits for export such as apples, oranges, pears. Oversized and undersized fruits get rejected. You'd be amazed at the size of giant apples that do not make it to market.

Anonymous said...

6 years??? nuts...another 5 years to go. My avocado is about 5m high already. The seeds from Lake Toba sumatera. Love avocado juice + palm sugar.

funvinyldecals said...

Hi. So happy to find this local discussion of Avocado tree. Would any of you be kind enough to give me afew proven locally seeds? I want to plant in my backyard. Willing to wait 5/6 years for flowering and fruit. And I promise to bring the 1st crop to you.

Dr Francis Ng said...

Anybody who wants an avocado seedling from my tree can call me on my mobile 019-3820012 to arrange for collection. The best time is Friday 10 am at the Secret Garden at 1 Utama.

khool said...

Hi, On a trip to KK in March, we purchased some local avocados from one of the markets in the highlands. On returning home, 1 of the 5 seeds germinated and our little avocado plant is now growing in a pot. Can I continue growing it in a pot, or would i have to put it to ground soon. Also, how high do local avocado trees grow? any advice would be much appreciated.

Dr Francis Ng said...

Avocadoes are common in the markets in Sabah because of Philippine influence. There is a lot of variation in the fruits, in colour, size, shape, texture and taste.

Avocadoes can grow to 30 m tall if planted in the ground. I grow my tree in the ground, but limit the height to 5 m by trimming the top, so that I can harvest the fruits easily. In a large pot, with regular trimming, you could make an ornamental bush 2-3m tall. Such a miniaturised tree will require some bonsai skills if you want to keep it as a permanent showpiece.

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mgmorss said...

I have a piece of land in Sarawak and would love to try avocado farming instead of rubber, cocoa or pepper. I'm pretty much sure there are demands here in Malaysia. What do you think?

Mark said...

I have done some research into growing avocado fruit. I have learnt from my reading that it will take ages for the tree to bear fruit if you grow the avocado tree from a seed. The quicker way is to grow the tree from a grafted tree. A grafted tree with proven track record of bearing fruits. Growing the tree from a seed might take 10 - 20 years before it bears any fruit, or at least that is what the "experts" are saying.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
Where would I be able to find Malaysian avocadoes? I'm based in KL. The Australian ones are often unripe and tasteless. Miss the ripe, rich ones I used to have when studying overseas. Would like to give some to my baby as it is rich in nutrients but have not been able to find nicely ripe ones from the supermarket. Even the Australian ripe ones are often bland, probably because of "pre-mature" harvesting?

nur said...

I know I'm out of topic..I have a picky eater 2 yr old and 9 months old and would like to feed them with avocado..do you know where can I buy it at cheaper price?anybody would like to sell their planted avocados?maybe i can buy a bulk for 2 weeks supply fortnightly?

nur said...

I know I'm out of topic..I have a picky eater 2 yr old and 9 months old and would like to feed them with avocado..do you know where can I buy it at cheaper price?anybody would like to sell their planted avocados?maybe i can buy a bulk for 2 weeks supply fortnightly?

Peter Ling said...

I have a 6 year old avocado tree that produces about 300 fruits in 1 season. Beautiful and big fruits. My family and friends just love eating them with ice cream, blending them with coffee or spread its flesh on the toasted bread.
The tree, grown from seeds, started fruiting after 5 yrs. old. It is as huge as mango tree.

Architecture Fun said...

Hi, Dr. Francis Ng,
I am from KL and currently looking for plants to grow in my garden, I already have a Madagascar Almond, and looking for another tree to plant, wonder if avocado tree is a very large tree for a house?

If it is appropriate, may I ask for the seed from you?

Any advise on shade loving tree/ shrub on another small patch of garden?

Anonymous said...

If this blog is still active, i'd be very keen to get hold of a suitale avacado seedling. i am based in Selangor and have seen one other Avacado tree in Petaling Jaya, but did not note any fruit on it. i'll keep a watching breif to see if there is a response. I do know that a fair amount of room is needed, even with pruning over time - perhaps equal to the land area that a mango tree needs. Sharif

pojet said...

Where is it in johor? Can i have the contact number? Email me pojet_002007atyahoo.com

Unknown said...

what are the common disease infecting avacado trees and how to counter ??

Mah said...

Dear Dr. Ng, I am very interested to grow avocados plants in my orchard which I just purchased. The land is closed to the river but with drainage, as this land used to be
famous for pomelo in the 50 -60' . As most trees are too old. I plan to buy avocados plants from the agriculture dept. and do something to the land. Can you help me to plan how can I work on it. Both of us will be retiring soon. What is the pro. and con. on planting this plants where I love. I live in KK. and my orchard is in Papar.

Anonymous said...

Where is it in johor? Can i have the contact number? Email me d_lai71@yahoo.com

Edward Teoh said...

Hi everyone, If you are interested... we have regular discussions on avocado grafted plants:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/avocadoloversmalaysia/

Fern said...

Wow fantastic discussion. I'm a fan if avocadoes abd never knew they can grow in this weather. I googled Sabah and growing avocadoes cos I thought the cooker climate will be suitable. Nut here I find people are growing in their potted plants In Singapore. Wow wee! I'm in Sg too. So inspired to try but we do get hot days. Humid too. Hmmm.

Fern said...

Wow fantastic discussion. I'm a fan if avocadoes abd never knew they can grow in this weather. I googled Sabah and growing avocadoes cos I thought the cooker climate will be suitable. Nut here I find people are growing in their potted plants In Singapore. Wow wee! I'm in Sg too. So inspired to try but we do get hot days. Humid too. Hmmm.