Posts Tagged ‘avocado’

Local fruit at Whole Foods

Donnie avocado

Farmer Margie just got back from dropping off 30 bushels of her certified organic Donnie avocados at the area Whole Foods warehouse. Look for her fruit in South Florida stores starting this Thursday. If you don’t see them, ask the produce manager to get them for you.

Here’s a picture of a Donnie that I got at last Saturday’s fruit sale. I can hardly wait to sink my teeth into it! These are mild and creamy and I can only eat half at a time. This particular fruit weighs one and a half pounds, but by the end of the season, they will grow to 3 to 4 pounds!

Mario's lychee

Margie also dropped off certified organic lychees that are Certified Naturally Grown by Mario Yanez, which will also be in Whole Foods this week. His lychees are plump and sweet and juicy. It’s getting toward the end of lychee season, so get them while you can because there aren’t going to be any more.

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Summer has just begun and it’s already a scorcher! We’ve had above normal temperatures since April 26, according to the National Weather Service. Highs have been 90 degrees or above since May 30 (except for a slight dip to 88 on June 1). The heat index has been 100+ degrees most days. Last June was even hotter. Record temperatures were set on June 22, 2009 in Miami with a high of 98. Fort Lauderdale had a high of 100, tying an all time record. This summer feels hotter because temps have consistently been at 90 or above for 59 days and counting, while last summer temps were mostly in the high 80s with a few spikes in the 90s.

The last picture I took before getting chased off by a hot and cranky bee.

This crazy heat has an effect on livestock at Bee Heaven Farm. Chickens stand with their beaks open, panting, and hold their wings out a bit to their sides to try to cool off. Bees don’t like heat and get cranky. I passed by the hives when beekeeeper Miguel Bode was working with them a few weekends ago. One bee took offense to where I was standing, buzzed around my head, and chased me for a good distance. Lucky for me, I didn’t get stung but it felt close! Even the worms in the vermiculture bin have been suffering mightily. Instinctively they’ve dived down to the bottom of the bin, seeking cooler soil, but hit bottom instead. The Worm Guy (that’s what Margie calls him) advised chilling them down with frozen water bottles buried in the bin. Wigglers on the rocks, anyone?

I asked Farmer Margie what grows well in this kind of heat. “Weeds!” she exclaimed. Those weeds completely took over vegetable beds after Gleaning Day. Margie mowed them down, and now that she’s had two days without rain, she’s out on her tractor tilling the soil, preparing to plant cover crops.

Some summer fruit is finally starting to get ready, but running a little behind schedule because of the freeze this winter. The extended period of super cold weather caused plants to go dormant for weeks. Lychees (Mauritus variety) are bearing late this year. Margie pointed out that last year, a bumper crop of lychees were harvested in late May. This year the harvest began in mid-June, and the quantity isn’t quite as much.

Mauritus lychees from last summer.

Another casualty of the cold are mango trees which were in bloom in January when the freeze hit. The long stretch of freezing temperatures damaged blossoms. Some fruit set and grew, but then aborted and fell off. I’ve seen trees that don’t have as much fruit, and if they do, they’re not as plentiful and not as big or developed.

Half-grown Donnie avocado.

Avocado trees seemed to escape significant damage from the freeze in January. Branches are loaded with fruit several inches long, about the size of Haas avocados in the groceries. If you’re not familiar with Florida avocados, and you have a tree in your yard, don’t get confused and pick early! The varieties that grow here, especially the Donnies that Margie raises, get much much, much bigger than the Haas variety from California or Mexico. Last summer many Donnie avocados weighed in at 3 pounds apiece, and one giant weighed 4 pounds. Avocado picking will start in mid-July, also several weeks later than last summer.

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Avocado tree infected with laurel wilt. The fungus carried by the beetle causes entire branches to turn brown and die. Photo courtesy UF/IFAS.

If you have avocado trees growing in your yard, heads up! The feared redbay ambrosia beetle has surfaced in west Miami-Dade County, in Emerald Lakes. One beetle was caught in a trap on March 2. Scientists are testing the captured bug to see if it carries a fungus that kills avocado trees (and others in the bay family) by causing a fatal wilt. There was a scare last summer, but that proved to be a false alarm. This time it looks like the real threat has arrived.

Florida Dept. of Agriculture recommendations for homeowners:

The public can help prevent the spread of the redbay ambrosia beetle and laurel wilt disease by following these simple suggestions:

— Become familiar with the signs of laurel wilt disease and redbay ambrosia beetle and be on the lookout for evidence of the pest/disease on your trees. http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/enpp/pathology/laurel_wilt_disease.html

— Use local firewood only. Do not transport firewood from other states because destructive pests and diseases, such as redbay ambrosia beetle and laurel wilt, can hitchhike into Florida on infested firewood. http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/videos.html

— Do not transport host trees (redbay, swamp bay, avocado, sassafras, pondspice, pondberry and others in the Lauraceae family) unless purchased from a registered nursery.

— If your Lauraceae-family tree dies, use one of UF/IFAS’s recommended methods of disposal.

People who suspect their trees might be infected with laurel wilt or think they have found a redbay ambrosia beetle are urged to contact the DPI helpline at 1-888-397-1517.

People who would like to submit a plant or insect sample, visit this web site for sample submission instructions http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/enpp/pathology/laurel_wilt_disease.html

Know your foe: redbay ambrosia beetle. Actual size is about half a grain of rice. Courtesy UF/IFAS.

Discovery of ambrosia beetle in Miami-Dade no cause for panic, scientists say

Last summer, there was a premature announcement of the presence of a tiny beetle that has the power to spread fungus that can severely damage avocado trees. That turned out to be an unfortunate mistake, triggering some growers to cut down and burn trees and apply pesticide.

This month, there’s no mistaking it: One redbay ambrosia beetle was found in a trap in west-central Miami-Dade County on March 2.

But scientists say a single beetle shouldn’t scare Miami-Dade growers — whose trees cover nearly 7,000 acres of South Florida — just yet.

“It’s not cause for panic, thank God,” said Jonathan Crane, a tropical-fruit plant specialist with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences in Homestead.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Redland Best avocados

Redland Best Florida avocado

Redland Best Florida LoCal avocado

So I found myself in the Sanford Wal-Mart this afternoon browsing through produce when I discovered a taste of home looking back at me. Avocados! They look like Donnies, but not as big as Farmer Margie grows them, and they’re selling under the Redland Best label. I whipped out my old Razr cell phone and took a couple snaps (apologies for the poor quality, but that’s what I had with me at the time). Googled for Redland Best but I haven’t been able to find anything about them. Does anybody know who they are? And what’s a “lo cal avocado” anyway??

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Did you go to the county commissioner budget meetings to state your case? No? You have several more chances. There are Budget Conference Committee (BCC) meetings on Aug 24, 25, 26 and 27 at commission chambers downtown.

The commission will hold final budget hearings on Thursday Sept 3rd at 5:01 pm and Thursday Sept. 17th at 5:01 pm . Currently the location of the hearings will be at the county commission chambers, but that might change as commissioners are expecting an overflow crowd. (The meeting location is not changing, but they are expecting a crowd. Marian, 8/21/09)

When you go, be sure to wear green. Green needs to be seen! And heard! Read and bring copies of these two documents Ivory Sheet and Green Sheet with you. They have facts and figures about the Extension program.

According to Cindy Dwyer, Master Gardener, “Remember that this is a game of numbers. If nobody shows up to protest, the result is a big zero. Organize a group of Master Gardeners and get your friends and neighbors who care about this issue to go to the meetings with you!”

If you can’t attend meetings, write letters to the commissioners. Find out how you can contact your commissioner here.

So why should CSA members and other locavores care? According to the Extension Ivory Sheet, “Miami-Dade County is considered as ground zero for new plant pests and diseases entering the United States. Many are first found in residential neighborhoods and quickly spread to agricultural areas. Cooperative Extension horticultural professionals are first responders for these invasive threats to agriculture, home horticulture, urban landscapes and the natural environment.”

Remember laurel wilt? It’s still here, and it’s not going away. Do you have an avocado tree in your yard? Cooperative Extension is the place to turn to if you want to learn how to keep your tree alive. If you’ve been enjoying Farmer Margie’s ginormous avocados this summer, and want to eat them again next summer, speak out in favor of Cooperative Extension at the commission meetings. Margie learned how to grow avocados and keep them healthy through training from Extension.

If the budget that Mayor Carlos Alvarez proposes is approved, the Extension office will close its doors forever on September 30. Everyone from the Master Gardener coordinator to the clerical staff will lose their jobs. Everyone from growers to locavores will feel the impact.

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