Oranges in summer, really? Blueberries, asparagus and rhubarb in autumn? Brussels sprouts in spring and summer? And avocados? Well, we demand them all the time, in season or not, local or imported. A braai in December without avos? Puhlease, we’ll get some somehow.
By MARIE-LAIS EMOND
mported or forced, now that we know something about seasonal, environmentally conscious eating, we could really do without the fruits and vegetables that are not naturally in season in our own country. When they aren’t in season, we can eat something that is. We wail at the prices of avos imported from Israel and Spain when ours are out of season. But we still buy them. They wouldn’t be importing them otherwise. We South Africans seem to think we’re somehow entitled to avocados all the time, no matter what it takes. It’s quite obsessive and berserk to be like this. But it is like this. We are like this. You’ll hear ladies who lunch and families in steakhouses demand “some avo” or “some more avo” in their salads, any time of the year. The great South African pizza? It’s avo-and-bacon, with mozzarella cheese or what passes for it, of course. “Where’s the smashed avo toasty that’s usually on this menu? Well, I want it.” I’m in an avo orchard under a humid, pearly sky near Tzaneen. From each tree hang our favourite pear-shaped, green-fleshed fruits. Yes, fruit because of the pip. An hour ago, I dropped down here in a tiny plane.I’d been wondering how and what to write about our distinctly national obsession with avos, regarding the extreme South African avo demand and the demanding thereof. Over recent years, I’ve read those little foldouts from grocery outlets about all-year-round local avo availability and it was never as promised. Then I read something by ZZ2, I admit better known to me as my favourite mixed-tomato supply people, also atchar-mango growing people. What I read yet again was about having local avos all year round. I hoped this time it might be true. That was a week ago. I’m here.
The scene I’m watching is Pinkerton avo picking. These are March-to-April-ripening avocados. When the notoriously avo-free months of December, January and February come, the picking scene is similar.
Only the varieties, their terrains, their own microclimates, so the ZZ2 farms are different. The avos picked then are Galil, Itzamna, Simmonds and Shepard, even Reed avos for good measure. This picking is speedy stuff. The men and women are ZZ2 employees who want to earn extra income from avo picking. The picking months were once highlighted on the calendar but the company can now provide picking all year round. There are some people, often women, who have become super-experts. Avo picking payment is per bag and it can be quite frantic, filling bag after bag as fast as possible, having it weighed, emptied and starting quickly again. Yes, picking is constant. To ensure that we never lack locally grown, naturally and seasonally ripe, hand picked avos again, ZZ2 is providing a constant supply of avos all year, throughout every month now. At last, an incessant supply of real, ecologically grown avos, our nationally preferred fruit, is guaranteed, as Afrikado.
Those salads, pizzas, toasties and even our version of not-so-very-Japanese sushi, avo sushi, can all come our South African way, without hiatus.
Over 20 years ago, ZZ2 realised that the world was changing fast in terms of responsible farming. ZZ2 was already starting to export. They began steering away from the old industrial style of agriculture and, through their new philosophy and associated methods under Natuurboerdery®, they began “farming in harmony with nature”. There’s also no point in superfoods being super when they are grown with the assistance of pesticides. Nowadays, water is recycled and used cleverly, sparingly, held in the soils without wastage. The company’s own compost assists plants and natural waste products are used, boosting soil health without the synthetics and destruction. Probiotics are developed in situ so that the plants can withstand ailments and good old ways of growing trees on soil banks bear best fruit, so to speak. I can see some of these improvements from where I stand.