It’s the time of year when my family members look to a familiar old tree in Largo, with hopeful hearts that we’ll see avocados.
The harvest is the result of a seed started more than 60 years ago. Now a mighty tree that has faithfully weathered storms, heat and drought, it produces avocados superior in taste, making any recipe where they’re included exceptional.
There were no avocado trees in the western North Carolina mountains where I grew up. I didn’t taste one — not even guacamole — until I was out of college. The man I married shortly after my graduation in 1971 hailed from Tampa. His mom praised avocados. It took time for me to become a fan.
The first husband left. Years passed and then I met Jay, now my husband of 32 years. Visiting his parents’ Largo home, I saw the avocado tree, a gnarled old thing showing its advanced years. I sampled an avocado and loved the smooth, rich taste, a reminder of fresh butter my grandma churned from our cow’s milk when I was a child.
Avocados scored high with me, but they fell out of favor nutritionally. Reports advised their high fat content would wreck our health. Shoppers zoomed past the grocery bins where avocados lay heaped in August and September.
As with many things in nutrition, this changed with time. According to californiaavocado.com, avocados are a nutrient-dense food, with one-fifth of an avocado containing only 50 calories and offering 20 vitamins and minerals. When used as a fat alternative, avocados are a satisfying addition to a reduced-calorie diet. They are quite popular now.
Regardless of the nutrition report, the old Largo tree persevered, producing tasty avocados for us to gather.
A terrific avocado spice cake, sort of a cross between a Bundt cake and nut bread, became one of our go-to recipes. Next was an avocado pie, similar to a key lime pie. My sister contributed a Tilapia Wrap recipe, where fish is topped off with slices of avocado. A teacher friend offered a terrific chocolate pudding recipe, where the key ingredient is avocado. Of course, salads with avocados are a mainstay.
About nine years ago, I sliced open an avocado from the aging tree, plopped the seed in soil and waited. The sprout was nibbled off twice by squirrels, repotted numerous times and finally planted in the ground. It weathered a hurricane and time marched on. In the spring of 2019, the tree bloomed for the first time.
This July, I was stunned when I looked up and saw the early morning sun highlighting a big fat green avocado. I’ve counted a few more since then. The legacy from the old Largo tree has been passed to this new one, in Odessa.
Harvest time is here, so I’m sorting through my recipes and considering what to make first, knowing there will be plenty of new dishes to go on my favorites list.
Avocado Spice Cake
2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground allspice
1 ⅞ cups granulated sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups mashed ripe avocado
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup chopped pecans
½ cup raisins
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9- by 5-inch inch loaf pans or one Bundt pan.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then mix in the mashed avocado. Stir in the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk until just mixed. Fold in the chopped pecans, raisins and orange zest. Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans or pour into Bundt pan.
Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow loaves to cool in pan for at least 20 minutes before removing. Dust with powdered sugar if you’d like.
Source: Gail Diederich
Avocado Lime Pie
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
⅓ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups of water
4 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon lime zest
½ cup fresh lime juice (about 5 limes)
1 (9-inch) baked pie shell, or graham cracker crust
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
⅛ teaspoon salt
Blend 1 ½ cups sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan; gradually stir in water. Stir constantly over medium heat and allow to boil for 30 seconds.
Beat egg yolks in a separate bowl, then gradually beat half of the hot mixture into yolks. Add mixture back to saucepan. Stir and boil for 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and stir in lime peel. Add avocado and lime juice to egg mixture and mix well. Pour into the baked pie shell.
Make a meringue with the egg whites. In a bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until foamy. Continue beating, gradually adding remaining ½ cup sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry.
Top pie with meringue. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
Source: For the Love of Cooking by Lena E. Sturges
Avocado, Corn and Tomato Salad With Honey Lime Dressing
1 large avocado, cut into cubes
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 ears corn, grilled or boiled and cut from cob
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
For the Honey Lime Dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash of cayenne pepper
Mix salad ingredients in a bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl. Toss dressing with salad; set aside 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Tilapia and Avocado Wraps
¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup thinly sliced white onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon oregano
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (8-ounce) tilapia fillets, each divided in half
8 (6-inch) tortillas, corn or flour
Half an avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
Combine first three ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Add onion and jalapeno, if using, and mix. Cover and refrigerate.
Starting with the paprika, mix the next seven ingredients in a small bowl to make a rub. Brush fish fillets lightly with olive oil, then spread rub mixture evenly over fish.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 17 minutes.
When fish is done, warm tortillas according to package directions. Divide fish, onion mixture and avocado slices evenly over tortillas and wrap. Serve with lime wedges.
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup maple syrup or honey
½ teaspoon vanilla
Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Chill 20 to 30 minutes, then serve.
Source: Shine Stevens
Gail Diederich is a retired Pasco County teacher of 32 years. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.