Pick your own from Truman’s tree

“It is harvest time now,” said Little White House’s Jeanna Garrido. “People are having a fun experience picking their stock over here.”

The Little White House offered a unique opportunity for people to get avocados off of one of the trees at the Little White House. “It was a fun little fundraiser as well,” she said.

Key West residents Paul and Leslie Skinner were at the Tropical Fruit Fair in July and saw the opportunity to buy avocado futures. “The man selling them told us that Harry was real fond of these avocados,” said Paul. “So we bought a future, which meant we could come and pick them when they were ready.”

Being big avocado fans, especially of the big smooth-skinned ones on the tree, Paul and Leslie were excited to get an email saying the avocados were ready for harvest. They rode their bikes to Little White House and picked four. “Two more fell off while we were picking the fourth, so we ended up with six,” he said. “Our lucky day.”

The two extras they brought to Michigan to share with their son and son-in-law, while visiting their 13-day-old granddaughter this week. And, they are looking forward to making avocado toast on Cuban bread when they return. They also plan on planting the avocado seeds, having “Truman” trees of their own eventually.

Little White House still has a few shareholder orders to fulfill; however, the public can swing by the gift shop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily or call to schedule an appointment at 305-294-9911. Picking costs $5. There is a full-time gardener on-site who can assist in the picking experience.

“We have another tree that will be ready to harvest next month,” said Garrido. “Our mission is to preserve the Little White House, famous and historic trees included, and we are thrilled that the public has enjoyed our avocado experience.”


How old are the trees on property?

The Little White House is working to find the exact answer to that question. “We are in search of photos that date back to include the trees, as well as an open project, which includes analyzing the DNA of the seeds,” said Little White House’s Jeanna Garrido. “The University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center under the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is helping us with this project. Our goal is to find the exact variety of avocado and age of the tree.”

Originally Navy property that dates back to 1890, the historic site Little White House has been visited by seven U.S. presidents and served as the “Winter White House” for President Harry S. Truman Some natives share the legend that the avocado trees on the Little White House property are most likely of Cuban origin, created as victory gardens and groves during the Spanish-American war. Just think: cigar workers, maritime ship builders and many notable Key West visitors surely enjoyed fruit from the same trees. Willard Wells, the gardener hired by the Navy around 1915, was credited for the layout of the botanical gardens seen today on the property.  Other notable trees on the property include 20th century gems like a Sappa Dillas, mangoes, Spanish almonds, dates, and coconut palms. It is also home of Monroe County’s oldest soapberry tree, which many tropical countries use to produce a soap-like material from the berries.

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