pierre laszlo

The avocado tree

The avocado plant, Persea americana, of the Lauraceae family, originated in Mexico. Linnaeus identified it as a relative of the laurel and thus named it Laurus persea. The cultivar Persea americana Hass is named after a mail carrier, Rudolf Hass, who patented a single productive tree in 1935. Its name, “ahuacatl,” in the Aztec language is due to the fruit resembling a human testicle. Indeed, this Nahuatl word for their “fertility fruit” closely resembles “guaca-mole.” It was transcribed into Spanish as “avocado” at the time of the Conquest: the earliest known written mention in Europe is by Martín Fernández de Enciso (c. 1470–c. 1528) in his Suma de Geographia que Trata de Todas las Partidas y Provincias del Mundo (1518 or 19). The first written use in English of the word “avocado” was by Hans Sloane in a 1696 index of Jamaican plants. The plant was introduced to Indonesia in 1750, Brazil in 1809, the Levant in 1908, and to South Africa and Australia in the late 19th century. The French planted it in Guiana, Santo Domingo and even on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Hence, nowadays avocadoes may come from a large number of areas worldwide. The tree can grow to 70 ft with alternately ar-ranged leaves 5-10 in long. The buttery texture of the pulp struck geographers and botanists several centuries ago. It stems from an abundance of fats, about 15%, derived predominately from monounsaturated fatty acids (10% of the weight). The energy content, per 100 g, is 670 kJ (160 kcal). Consumption of 200 g/d of avocado within an energy-restricted diet does not compromise weight loss when substituted for 30 g of mixed dietary fat. The fruit is also rich in potassium and vitamins, including vitamin C and pantothenic acid (B5), about 28% of the daily need per 100 g serving. In addition to its nutritive value, there are also medical applica-tions, for lowering cholesterol, for cancer-prevention — chemicals in the fruit selectively in-duce cell cycle arrest, inhibit growth, and induce apoptosis in precancerous and cancer cell lines — for arthritic hips and knees and for painful gums. An intriguing conjecture is that the avocado tree coevolved with large herbivores such as the dinosaurs. It is based on the unu-sually large size of the pit.