By Peter Schaller
“This is all I have left,” she says with a look of dismay. “The season’s almost over; these are the last avocados we’ll see for a while.”
There is a woman who has a small fruit and vegetable stand, just a few blocks from my house. I usually stop on my way home to pick up some bananas, tomatoes or, lately, avocados. Avocado season in the Nicaragua runs for just a few months, from roughly April through August.
Most folks in the temperate zones don’t realize that avocados in the tropics are akin to apples up north. There are more varieties, sizes, shapes, colors, textures and flavors that I could effectively convey. The array of avocados down here near the equator goes far beyond the small, dark midgets commonly found in northerly grocery stores.
I guess I could be caught saying this about a lot of different fruits and vegetables, but I really love avocados. We all know that avocados are a nutrient-dense food, packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and that good kind of fat that our hearts so crave.
But moving beyond the health benefits, avocados are just amazing. They are the perfect balance of taste and texture. During the season, I make it a point to eat at least one a day, because I know they won’t be around for very long. Eating should be a meditative act and there is no better food that brings us closer to enlightenment than an avocado.
I take a look at the motley collection of avocados left on her table, sharing her disappointment.
None of them look particularly good. For the past several weeks, we have marveled, she and I, about the size and quality of the avocados that she has found in the market. But now we’re facing the stark reality of the fading season. I touch them all, gently, to see which one might be close enough to ripe, not too, to take home for one last supper.
One of the things that genuinely concerns me when I visit the United States is that practically every grocery store in the country, no matter what latitude or longitude, offers every type of fruit and vegetable imaginable, 365 days a year. This is troublesome on many different levels.
First of all, anything that grows out of the earth has a cycle; that’s just the way nature works. If we are inclined to eat everything we desire, any time we crave it, that means some very dark and damaging agricultural and agro-industrial practices must be employed.
In order to grow all year round, preserve, transport and store agricultural products long enough for them to get around the globe, many frightening (and carcinogenic) petrochemicals have to be used. The mere act of shipping agricultural products to the far reaching corners of the planet leaves an enormous carbon footprint, contributing unequivocally to climate change. Our appetite will eventually be our demise.
But, let’s say we set aside all that doomsday talk and just focus on our cultural addiction to instant gratification. Why do we need to have access to avocados every minute of our waking lives? When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, I honestly don’t remember seeing tropical produce in the grocery stores. There was less to choose from and the produce aisle fluctuated with the seasons.
Now, we are trapped in the ever elusive pursuit of pleasure.
We need everything, all the time, at any cost. Our desire-driven consumption wreaks havoc on the world and also on our souls. The perpetual state of dissatisfaction leaves a large hole within us that we try to fill with, often times, the wrong things. What’s wrong with patience and anticipation? What’s wrong with foregoing the avocado for an apple (or vice versa) simply because it will have a lesser impact on the world?
I would love to say that I chose the perfect avocado from that table of misfits. But, I got home to slice open that avocado and confirmed my fear that it was just a little too ripe. There were some dark spots on the fruit, which had turned a little too mealy for my taste. The over-ripeness gave it a bit of a sour taste. ‘So this is the last avocado?’ I chuckled to myself. My fantasies about ending the season with a firm, buttery avocado were quickly dispelled—but that’s alright.
It will be several months before I will see another avocado.
In the meantime, my garden is crazy with spinach, squash and hot peppers. I will imagine the silky texture and the tangy sweetness of a ripe avocado, from time to time, and that will make my first avocado next season all the more delightful. Anticipation is a precursor to imagination and creative thinking. Patience is a direct path to peace.
Eating locally and seasonally will lessen our carbon footprint in the world and will also promote better health. Plants don’t grow by accident. We must understand that there is truly a divine plan in nature, designed to keep us healthy and balanced. By eating what is available locally, we are equipping our bodies with the micronutrients and antitoxins necessary for us to thrive. Local purchasing also contributes to flourishing, micro-economies.
Instead of letting our appetites lead to a social and environmental apocalypse, may it contribute to our collective prosperity.
Photo: Peter Schaller
Editor: Dana Gornall