Growing Avocados and Lychees

Meet Ian Burrows

In episode four of Matthew Hayden’s Home Ground we meet Ian Burrow. Ian’s farm has been in his family for six generations and almost every fruit and vegetable imaginable has been grown on his 95 acres.

He has six different types of avocadoes but favours the Sharwil variety as they have a nice nutty flavour. “Avocadoes grow fine but they do need good soil and they hate clay,” says Ian. “They will bruise if they are dropped four inches so make sure you use a ladder to pick them. The beauty of an avocado tree is that the fruit will stay on the branches for two to three months after they are ripe so you don’t have to pick them straight away.”

He also has 18 lychee trees on the property and an intensive irrigation system because lychee trees need a lot of water. Ian has quite a lot of trouble with bush turkeys eating his crop so the entire family helps cover the trees with nets during December. “Lychees are a little more labour intensive to grow than avocadoes because they have a one month picking window in late summer," says Ian.

Avocado facts

Avocados first arrived in Australia in 1840 in seed form. A tree was planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the Australian industry took off.

The trees start to bear fruit after three years and a ten-year-old tree can yield up to 400 avocados each year.

There are more than 500 varieties of the avocado and 70 in Australia, but they all stem from three ‘races’ - the Mexican, the Guatemalan and the West Indian. West Indian avocados are the largest of the lot with fruit weighing more than 1kg.

Hass is the most common variety and has a knobbly, purple-black exterior and a creamy, rich interior. When unripe the skin is green and it turns black when ripe.

Other varieties such as Reed, Shepard and Sharwil are green-skinned even when ripe, so to see if they’re ready just press on the stem. If they're soft, they're good to eat.

Shepard flesh doesn't turn black when cut, making them perfect for salads, rice paper rolls and guacamole-style dips.

You can speed up the avocado ripening process by storing it in a paper bag with a ripe banana at room temperature. The ethylene gas from the banana will ripen the avocado in two to five days.

Only put avocadoes in the fridge after they are ripe. Once in the fridge they will keep for about two weeks.

The avocado has the highest protein and oil content of any fruit. In fact, this soft-fleshed fruit can contain up to 30 per cent fat. Don't let the high fat content put you off, though; avocados contain only monounsaturated fat, which may help to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Lychee facts

Chinese miners introduced the fruit to Queensland in the late 1800s. It was the favourite fruit of Chinese emperors, and is native to Southern China, where the climate is subtropical. Lychees definitely prefer warmer climates.

Australia grows about eight varieties of lychees which bear fruit at different times of the year between November and February.

The Bosworth 3 variety makes up 55 per cent of all lychees produced in Australia. Other varieties include the Bendal, Souey Tung, Tai So, Kaimana, and a Thai variety called Sa Keng.

It takes three or four years for a lychee tree to start producing fruit. After 10 years a tree can produce 20-40kg of fruit.

When buying lychees, examine the colour of the fruit carefully, making sure to avoid anything with a brown coloration, as it is likely to be over-ripe. Because lychees do not continue to ripen after they have been picked, it is also important to avoid fruit with green skin, as it is likely to be under-ripe.

After purchasing, you can keep your lychees in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a maximum of seven days. They will also last longer if the stem is kept intact.

Lychees are very good for you. Seven lychees have as much vitamin C as a small orange, which is 100 per cent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C!

They can be added to salads or used in marinades or sauces where sweetness is required. They also make the perfect dessert when paired with coconut.

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