Weekly Gardening Tips: Avocados and football

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By Bob Beyfuss

Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of a man named Bob Beyfuss.

As we enter the shortest month by calendar, yet seemingly the longest by weather, winter-weary northerners look for distractions to help pass the time.

February needs all the holidays we award it, in order to preserve the sanity of those who suffer seriously from cabin fever. One of our most important modern-day “holidays” in America is the Super Bowl. We may not get a day off from work, but far more people will celebrate, or party, during this weekend’s football game than remember the birthdays of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.  

I can suggest a few possible remedies for cabin fever, aka seasonal affected disorder.

Real sunshine tops the list, although that is not always possible during February. Visit a garden center, nursery or anyplace else that has a greenhouse you can walk around in. Inhale some freshly liberated oxygen from the greenhouse plants and marvel at the chemical reaction that makes this possible.     

Visit the Mountain top Arboretum in Tannersville, or some other outdoor collection of trees and shrubs to see how beautiful certain deciduous plants look naked.

If you cannot get real sunlight, take some vitamin D to replace the stuff your body makes by itself in the presence of sunlight. The evidence that this vitamin offers many health benefits, perhaps even in averting COVID infection, is becoming more and more plausible as we learn more about the nature of viral infections.

Even artificial lights used for houseplants may offer some relief and an indoor “grow room” specifically designed for growing certain herbs is as bright as a summer day. Many actively growing plants also provide scents that may trigger pleasant memories. 

Start some seeds near a really sunny window or under fluorescent lights. The satisfaction of seeing something alive and growing in the dead of winter will lift your spirits. It does not matter if the seedlings survive until spring to transplant outdoors or croak by the end of March. The point now is to get through February!

Anything in the cabbage family such as bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage will sprout in a few days, whereas tomatoes, peppers and eggplant will take twice as long. Most lettuce seeds also sprout quickly and may even reward you with a winter salad in a few weeks. You can also pot up some supermarket-bought scallions and watch them grow new tops as you cut off the old ones.

Cut some terminal twigs of spring flowering shrubs, such as forsythia or pussy willow, and put them in a vase with warm water. In two weeks, or so, they will bloom indoors and they need no supplemental light. Just don’t butcher the shrub by making too many cuttings!

You can also host or attend an aforementioned Super Bowl party if you are vaccinated, or well masked and willing to take appropriate precautions.

When I was a kid, there was no Super Bowl and there also were no avocados sold at the grocery store. These days about 13.2 million pounds of avocado, or approximately 26 million individual avocados, give or take, are sold in preparation just for this game. “Holy guacamole!”

Avocados are the main ingredient in guacamole, of course, and this is one of the most popular snacks that will be served. It is also good for you, especially when compared to other popular snacks such as nachos loaded with cheese or salty potato chips.

The health benefits of guacamole primarily come from the avocado. Avocados are loaded with healthy monounsaturated fat, which boosts brain function and health. It is one of the good plant-based fats that can help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Their high fiber content also makes you feel full and may reduce food cravings for some time. 

There are two main types of avocados. The most common ones are the variety “Hess,” which are smaller, darker skinned and stronger flavored than Florida avocados, which are much larger, with a lighter green skin color and a much milder flavor. I like them both, but I was able to get some really fresh Florida avocados from a friend who lives near me here in Florida. Sadly, his magnificent, 64-year-old avocado tree died last year.

Avocados are always harvested green (unripe) and allowed to ripen in storage. Their green skin needs to turn brown and the fruit needs to soften before they can be eaten.

Here’s a tip on how to get a green avocado to ripen almost overnight. Simply place the avocado in a paper bag with a ripe apple or banana. Fold the top of the bag to close and seal it. The bag will trap ethylene gas that the fruit will produce as they ripen, thus speeding up the process for the avocado!

I hope you enjoy making guacamole and eating it on Super Bowl Sunday!

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