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Quiet Desperation

You’ve got to hand it to avocados, although you really shouldn’t


Here's a pop quiz. What fleshy fruit rich in healthy fats is sending more and more of its fans to the emergency room?

Here's a hint. You probably think it's a vegetable.

Here's another hint. It's not a tomato, but now and then they can be seen hanging out with each other.

They're sometimes called "alligator pears."

The most common variety was developed by a mail carrier in La Habra, California.

This should give it away. His name was Rudolph Hass.

The fruit itself is not dangerous. I have injured myself on coconut shells, and I have hurt myself trying to open prickly pineapples.

No, this one is on us.

And the injury that results has a name. It's called "avocado hand."

The ones at my grocery store generally are as firm as billiard balls. I let them mature before I try to slice them.

Some of us, however, are impatient, and slice away, first at the outer skin, then through the soft flesh of the avocado, then through the soft flesh of the hand.

Experts recommend slicing an avocado on a cutting board. Who does that? Maybe after you or I have severed a nerve or a tendon, we will.

Hass had seen a magazine article that showed dollar bills hanging from an avocado tree. In 1925, he bought some existing varieties and began to graft. He patented his mother tree in 1935 (it died in 2002).

Hass was to receive 25 percent of the proceeds, but the patent was abused over and over, and Hass made less than $5,000 in his lifetime.

Growing up in the Midwest, I'd see a green avocado once in a blue moon. I wasn't particularly interested in the fleshy fruit. I was, however, very interested in the pit.

I think you know why.

You can grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit.

No one I knew ever went that far, but you can get one to sprout, and it's fun to watch.

I realize that this is drifting into something dry and septuagenarian, so let's spice it up.

Unfortunately, there are no great avocado references in films or songs that I can pull out of my hat like I usually do.

There aren't any good avocado jokes either.

Unless you think this is funny: "Sorry, I can't pay rent this month. I bought three avocados at Whole Foods."

No one well-known is associated with avocados, like Popeye is with spinach, and Ronald Reagan is with jelly beans.

Three and a half tons of red, white, and blue Jelly Belly jelly beans were shipped to Reagan for the 1981 inauguration.

However, some well-known people have foodstuff to thank for their names. Are you ready?

Kevin Bacon, Chuck Berry, John Candy, Fiona Apple, Heather Graham, Jerry Rice, Daryl Strawberry, Harvey Milk, Orson Bean, Meatloaf, and Basil Rathbone.

Of those, Basil Rathbone is my favorite. Rathbone made twelve feature films portraying Sherlock Holmes, and no one will ever do it better. His look, his voice, his arrogance, his pretentious observations.

Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four novels and over fifty short stories that featured Sherlock Holmes, and never mentioned the word "avocado" in a single one of them.

Holmes himself preferred - please forgive me - mystery meat.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net. There are more than 280 pages of published and unpublished columns and commentaries in his newest book, "Four Thousand Holes," available at Amazon Prime.


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