Home-grown guacamole: just the thing to go with that sombrero you brought back from your vacation in Tijuana.

Guacamole on the vine

What’s the point of hats? That may seem like a rather daft question, but really, what is the point? I suppose if it’s particularly cold, there is a solid argument for wearing something warm and woolly, or has furry flaps on this side, but they do all seem to be designed to make the wearer look as ridiculous as possible.

Those furry flaps tend to spend more time sticking out at a 90-degree angle than keeping your ears snug, and the makers of furry hats seem insistent in attaching a little woolly bobble on the end of a piece of string to their creations. Silly; all seemingly designed with the word ‘undignified’ in mind. I just don’t get it.

We used to think that those novelty caps with either clapping hands or beerholders in them were hilarious in my youth; producing similar levels of mirth as T-shirts that said “I’m with Stupid”. Nowadays these kind of things just look a little tired. Or maybe I’m just getting old.

Come to think of it, there are very few hats that don’t look a little asinine. Baseball caps are a case in point. Worn by Americans of all ages, the preference seems to be either some sports team or an insignificant rural agricultural machinery company in Iowa – “Hank’s Tractors” or “E-Z Plough Pennsylltuckey”, etc. That’s when they’re not wearing their cowboy hats, of course.

The Brits used to have a bit of a hat thing going too. It wasn’t that many years ago that gentlemen working in ‘the city’ would turn up for work in a pinstripe suit replete with bowler hat. At least the bowler hat nonsense has died out nowadays. Unfortunately, some of them have gone in the opposite direction and taken to wearing baseball caps to work. Oh dear.

Abroad, in the days of the British Empire, my ancestors sincerely thought that pith helmets were the fashion statement of the time, as they sauntered around India and Malaya. I have no idea what purpose they felt those ridiculous beige monstrosities were serving, or even why they were called ‘pith’ helmets. Perhaps they were simply taking the pith. I’m not sure.

What makes tourists think that they’re allowed to put whatever they want on their heads? Daft little visor things with a green plastic see-through brim with the word ‘Phuket’ emblazoned on the front? Please. I’ve even seen farang walking around with plastic British bobby helmets. I’m sure the Patong vendor assured these half-sozzled staggerers that plastic bobby helmets were all the rage here in Phuket.

Other nationalities have their rather special types of headgear, too. Do Australians really sport those wide-brimmed things with corks dangling all over the place? I’m pretty certain that Moroccans wear the Tommy Copper-style fez, and that the Norwegians used to go around wearing daft pointy helmets with horns sticking out of them.

The Germans have their green Tyrolean hats; the ones that look like props from a cheesy Robin Hood film, and the French have the inevitable black beret. My personal favorite, perhaps because it’s the daftest of the lot, is the Mexican sombrero. Do Mexicans really put those things on their heads?

One thing they certainly do is produce great food, much of which is served with superb guacamole. Not surprisingly, you can grow the principle ingredient of guacamole, the avocado, here in Phuket. Also unsurprisingly, the process is dead simple.

The first step, and perhaps the most obvious, is to open the avocado and remove the pit, or stone, or whatever you want to call the seed, from the center. The only thing to bear in mind at this stage is that you should try to avoid scoring the seed with the knife as you cut around it. You should have two halves of avocado, which you can either scoop out and eat, or turn into guacamole.

This flesh is actually full of nutrients. Avocados contain just 5 grams of fat per serving, and no cholesterol or sodium. They also contain 60% more potassium per ounce than bananas, and are high in fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium and folate. If you care.

Wash the seed under running water, but don’t use soap or anything to clean it – just a soft cloth. Gently wipe away and remove any of the green fruit that might be on the pit, as leaving it there would just get a bit messy later on. Rinse it, and then blot it dry with a kitchen towel.

The next stage is a bit weird, to be honest. Carefully push three toothpicks into the thickest width of the seed. You’ll need to push the toothpicks in to about a centimeter deep. The toothpicks will help suspend the avocado seed in water and keep the top part of the seed in fresh air, with the fatter base of the seed under the surface of the water.

Suspend the pit over a glass filled with water. The toothpicks should rest on the rim of the glass and hold the pit in place so it doesn't sink to the bottom. Over the coming days and weeks, keep checking the water level in the glass to make sure that the water is covering the fat base of the pit by about a couple of centimeters.

Place the glass on a bright windowsill, or outside in a spot where it’s unlikely to be moved or knocked. In about three to six weeks the top of the avocado seed will begin to split, and a stem sprout will emerge from the top. At the same time, roots should begin to grow at the base.

When the stem grows to around 12 or 15 cm, pinch out the top set of leaves. In another two or three weeks new leaves will sprout and more roots should appear.

Now is the time to plant the young avocado tree. Put some of that coconut husk composty stuff into a decent-sized pot. Make a small depression in the center of the compost, and place the pit, root-side down into the depression. Don’t put it too deep – you want to have the upper half of the seed above the soil line.

Add some more soil around the pit to fill in any air holes by the roots and then firm it into the soil by gently pushing the soil around the base of the seed. The seedling’s stem and leaves should be straight and pointing up at this stage.

Next, water it generously so that the soil is thoroughly moist, but do this fairly slowly and gently so that when it’s poured in it doesn’t dig out holes in the soil. Keep the seedling watered but don’t let the soil become gooey. If the leaves turn yellow, this means that the plant is getting too much water. If that happens, let the soil dry out for a couple of days, and go back to light waterings.

Give it lots of sunlight, and wait. That’s it, really. Once planted out in this part of the world, an avocado tree can produce fruit in as little as three or four years. Having several avocado trees growing together helps with pollination, although this isn’t essential. In time, your avocado tree is a medium will grow to between five and ten meters tall, but with pruning its height can be kept shorter.

There are probably sombreros the size of avocado trees out there – and probably tourists drunk and daft enough to wear them. What they should do is attach a couple of clapping hands to them and dangle a few corks from the rim. Wouldn’t that be amusing… Yawn.



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