Keep Your Picker Out of My Tree!

You don't want to mess with someone who counts all 300 avocados on her tree.


Snap, rustle, thunk. Every other summer, these sounds punctuate my days and nights as the avocado tree in the back yard surrenders its shiny orbs to the grass below.


They’re creamy, the prized fruits of a tree planted by some generation I never knew. They never go mushy like those tiny blackened things in the store. Some of them grow to behemoth proportions. This one here is my fave: It’s almost as big as my face. I kept it on the tree as long as I could, cradling it daily to feel its full, weighty heft. It’s ripening on my counter now; in four days it will give me a full bowl of guacamole.


That’s right, I have a favorite avocado. If I didn’t worry about what future generations and the neighbors would say, I’d climb a ladder and write my name on all the biggest ones to prevent them from being picked before their rightful prime. And it’s not as if there are only a few dozen avocados on the tree. There are a couple hundred. That’s right, I counted.


So you can imagine what it does to me when I hear a snap and a rustle without the thunk. That means someone has stuck their picker in my tree and helped themselves to one of my lovelies. The first time this happened, I stood at the window, staring in disbelief. The next time, I yelled out the window.


The third time I thundered through the house, out the door, down the stairs and across the back yard, noting with satisfaction that the would-be thief was running just as fast in the other direction. The fourth time I tiptoed out the house, down the stairs and across the yard until I was standing under the tree, watching a skinny man with long salt-and-pepper hair intently aiming his picker through the leaves.


‘Hi,’ I said.


‘Oh! Uh, you want to trade avocados?’ He swung his picker at the gnarly black things hanging on my neighbor’s tree. He wasn’t my neighbor.


The thing is, I’d be happy to share my avocados, if only people would ask. Why don’t they ask? OK, maybe it is awkward to ask a stranger for the fruits off their tree. In that case, why not offer a trade? A couple of mangoes, limes, a bunch of green onions, even anthuriums or orchids, just a gesture.


I’d be thrilled. You know what it’s like being held hostage to all these green lovelies? I’m running around the neighborhood and driving around town, leaving bags with friends, relatives, clients, anyone who’s made me cookies, anyone whose mom loves avocados, anyone who was nice to my mom; and when my lovelies pile up on the counter in between, I get out the potato masher and spend hours making guacamole. And when it’s too much or I’m too busy? I mourn my dead lovelies and throw them in the trash. I’ll be hostage to this cruel, ceaseless cycle through the end of October.


So let me know if you’d like to trade. In the meantime, here’s my own recipe for guacamole.


Mari’s Should-Be-World-Famous Guacamole

Salsa (any kind, but make sure it’s tomato-based and has some liquid)
Green onions
Sriracha (this has chilies, garlic, sugar, vinegar and altogether a much more rounded flavor than Tabasco or chili water)

Notice my recipe has no measurements. I use none — but do a lot of tasting and adjusting seasonings. This means you’ll be stirring guacamole frequently, so if you mash too much up front, you will end up with no avocado chunks in your guacamole.

Peel and seed avocados and throw in a bowl. If you’re using my avocados or similarly large ones, add about 1 heaping tablespoon of salsa per avocado (I mean the kind you eat soup with, NOT a measuring tablespoon). Add a few pinches of salt. Go around the bowl a couple of times with the Sriracha. Depending on the size of your limes, start by squeezing in the juice of half a juicy lime per 2 medium to large avocados.

Minimally mash, then roughly stir everything together with the biggest fork you have. Taste. Adjust levels of salsa, lime juice, salt or Sriracha. Mix and taste again. Stop as soon as you think, wow!

Note: It’s OK if you accidentally overseason a little bit here. You can make up for it by adding a lot of greens, or a little more avocado. I sometimes reserve half an avocado in case I need to mild out the flavor after seasoning.

Now, grab a bunch of cilantro, chop, and throw in. Grab some green onion — more than you think you’ll need — and chop finely, from root to tip. GREEN ONION IS THE KEY. This fresh, edgy flavor will permeate the guacamole, but people won’t recognize that. They’ll all think it’s the cilantro. Mix all in and taste again. Your tastebuds should say yummy.

Note 2: This is excellent on steak, and I’ve been told on chicken as well.