Did you know that avocados grow on trees? Honestly: I had no idea where those delicious green fruits actually came from. Until I spent a few nights with my friend Marcella in Eco-Hotel La Cabaña, Salento. Despite having visited this area twice before, I had no idea that so many avocados grow here in addition to coffee trees. Avocado plantations are not normally open to the public. But what turned out: the owners of the Eco-Hotel own a large avocado plantation. I immediately grabbed my chance and asked if they would take us there. Of course! So it happened and completely unexpectedly we ended up in one of the most beautiful places in Eje Cafetero that I have seen. Do you also love avocados? Read on and find out where that avocado in your supermarket actually comes from.
Oh those are avocado trees!
You know, getting somewhere more often and really seeing all those little trees on the mountain. But in the meantime, you have no idea what kind of trees they actually are. So, when we were in the truck to the plantation and the owner pointed out to us those hundreds of little trees, “look, avocados are growing there”, hit suddenly hit me. After all these years, I finally know that those beautiful fields of little green trees are avocados. And now I also immediately understand why there are a lot of these kinds of plantations in the Colombian coffee region. Interesting.
The most famous avocado
Originally from Central America, the avocado was once called “Nahuatl” (testicle) by the inhabitants of Mexico. Probably the fruit got this name because of its shape. Avocado in Spanish is “aguacate”. There are many types of breeds, but the best known is the Hass. These are the small, pear-shaped avocados with a rough, bumpy skin. During ripening, the skin turns from bright green to black-brown. The Hass tree produces fruits year-round and accounts for 80% of all cultivated avocados worldwide. In Colombia, larger avocados are sold alongside the Hass, also with a light green skin. These taste different and personally I like the smaller ones (Hass) better. Avocados are rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins C, E and B, potassium and folic acid. Healthy! Well, if you don’t eat to mucht of them, of course…
On the plantation: where does the avocado come from?
For 20 years, the plantation has been owned by the family. As many as 1,300 avocado trees grow there, producing a sloppy 20,000 pounds of avocados annually. Only 20% of it stays in Colombia, the rest is exported to Europe. So that avocado in your supermarket could just be from Colombia! After planting the seeds, the trees grow in 3 years, after which the fruits take 9 months to ripe. Avocados should be picked when they are still green and shiny. Quite a heavy job, by the way, as each avocado is cut one by one with scissors, standing on the steep mountainside on which the trees grow. Picking is done 4 to 5 times a year. Avocados grow best at altitudes between 1,600 and 2,200 meters. This plantation is located at 2,200 meters.
Colombia and the avocado: the numbers
- Colombia is the fifth largest producer of avocados in the world, with a 5.7% share of production.
- Currently, Hass type avocados are produced in Colombia on some 6300 hectares, distributed in 1615 plots and 9 departments.
- In the department of Antioquia the largest production takes place, followed by Tolima and the Caribbean coast.
- In 2015, Colombia produced 27,532 tons of avocados. That’s an average yield of 4 tons per hectare and 19 kilograms per tree.
- This sector generates more than 3 million (temporary) jobs in the country.
The wonderful world of the avocado
When we arrive at the (Hass) plantation I am amazed. Open-mouthed, I stare at something I had no idea existed. Fantastically beautiful nature with even more beautiful views. Do avocados grow here? In the middle of the coffee area, surrounded by fragrant eucalyptus trees. Like two teenagers, we hopped happily across the grass along the green bushes. Marvel at the steep slopes against which the trees grow and the incredible beauty of this country. The three Chinese tourists who are also with us, are busy with the camera, pointing in all directions accompanied by all kinds of words in Chinese. I think, they too have never seen an avocado plantation. I am still so happy that I was able to experience this: how special! Fruit growing in such a beautiful place, with views far away and over Salento: no wonder they are so delicious!