Avocados Are Ready to Amaze You

By Teo Spengler | January 23, 2021
Image by Mary Ann Lewis
by Teo Spengler
January 23, 2021

The first plant I ever grew from grocery store produce was an avocado, and for the life of me, I can’t remember what made me decide to do it. I was in law school and thought of myself as a brown-thumb girl. I still remember my total amazement when the seed split and sprouted. That awe has stayed with me over the years as I garden. There is something about seeing little seeds become plants that awakens the child in all of us. 

My First Avocado Tree

I considered myself a failure with houseplants when I was in college. I had no experience with houseplants in an Alaskan childhood and, as a busy student, simply forgot to do the most basic nurturing chores, like watering my plants or figuring out if they needed sunlight or shade.

During law school, I lived in a graduate dorm on U.C. Berkeley campus. All meals were included so I didn’t buy much grocery store produce. So, you might ask, how did I end up with an avocado pit?

For Love of Avocados

I was someone who never ate an avocado until I was in college. In my town in central Alaska, veggies were few and far between. We got frozen peas and carrots from E&E Meats, and that pretty much covered my childhood veggies. 

When I moved to California for college, I discovered vegetables, including avocados, and they quickly became my favorites. I discovered a particular Berkeley café where the server would cut the fruit in two before your eyes, scooping out a full half per sandwich. 

One time I was there, waiting in line for an avocado sandwich, I thought the half of the avocado that contained the pit looked larger, so I asked if I could have the pit half for my sandwich. She misunderstood and put the pit on my plate along with the sandwich, so I went home with an avocado pit.

From Pit to Plant

I took the pit home and stuck it in a glass of water, using toothpicks to keep it half in, half out. To my total delight, it started growing a shoot from the pointed top and roots from the bigger bottom. I added water when the water got low and, in time, transferred it to a pot with soil in it. I watched in amazement as it turned into a tall stem with many leaves.

When I left for the summer, I asked my neighbor to keep the plant. She took it to her mother’s house in Santa Cruz and planted it outside. For years she would send me a photo of the plant at Christmas time, and, before we lost contact, it had turned into a tree some 10 feet (3 m.) tall. 

This does not seem so remarkable to me now. There are about five or six avocado plants happily growing unencouraged in my compost pile as I write this. It seemed like magic to me back then and opened my eyes to the wonder of plants.  

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