How California avocados have a global influence

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Holy guacamole, it’s peak avocado season in California. Americans are eating more avocados than ever, especially the Hass variety, which was created in California.

California’s own

There are more than 1,000 varieties of avocados listed in the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources database. Here are some of the most common varieties grown commercially in California:

Hass

  • Pebbly skin that turns from green to purplish when ripe
  • Oval shape
  • Small seed, 5-12 ounces

Hass is the king of California’s commercial avocado crop, as it makes up 95% of the avocados grown in the state and 80% of those grown worldwide. It was developed in La Habra Heights by Rudolph Hass. Patented in the 1930s, the Hass variety overtook Fuerte avocados as the leading commercial crop in the 1970s. The original tree stood for 76 years before root rot ruined it in 2002. Hass has one of the longest harvest seasons, usually beginning in February. Hass fruit has excellent flavor and shipping qualities. A single tree can produce up to 200 pounds annually (about 500 pieces), but most average around 60 pounds and 150 pieces.

Fruit maturation times are highly dependent on climate and environment, so a Hass avocado is not ready to eat at the same time of year in the Central Valley as it is in a cool coastal climate.

Bacon

  • Green skin, oval shape
  • Medium/large seed, 6-12 ounces

A bacon-flavored avocado sounds tasty, but this avocado was named for the person that bred it, James Bacon. It originated in Buena Park and was introduced in 1951. Its flesh has an unusually pale yellow/green color and has a high oil content. It matures from November-January in Orange County and December-March in Ventura County. The trees have a good frost tolerance.

Fuerte

  • Smooth skin, pear shape
  • Medium seed, 5-14 ounces

Trees introduced as budwood in 1911 from Atlixco, Puebla, Mexico. It is a hybrid Mexican variety that is ready to pick in November and is good through March. Fuerte has been a longtime California commercial variety valued for its winter season. Its skin thickness is medium thin and the seed size is medium large.

Reed

  • Slight pebbling, round shape
  • Medium seed, 8-18 ounces

Originated in Carlsbad by James Reed. Introduced in 1960 from a chance seedling planted in 1948.

Zutano

  • Shiny skin, pear shape
  • Medium seed, 6-14 ounces

Originated in Fallbrook by W.L. Ruitt. Introduced in 1941 from a selection made in 1926.

GEM

  • Black skin, pear shap
  • Medium seed, 7-11 ounces

Patented in 2003, GEMs might be seen in California stores for the first time this season.

Fruitful facts

Avocados turn brown the longer they are exposed to oxygen. Covering with a plastic wrap can block oxygen. Adding lemon or lime juice, or chilling the avocado, can delay the browning as well.

Heavyweight

According to Guinness World Records, the heaviest avocado was grown in Hawaii in 2018 and weighed 5 pounds, 8 ounces.

Does size matter?

According to the Scoop Blog by Dzung Duong on Californiaavocado.com, the size of an avocado does not indicate the fruit quality or stage of ripeness. An avocado’s seed actually grows with the fruit, so the seed-to-fruit ratio will always be close to the same. Pinkerton avocados are known to yield the most fruit per tree.

Cooking it up

Avocado oil is used as a high heat cooking oil with a smoking point of about 520 degrees.Its oil is also used in cosmetics or as a skin cream.

To learn more about planting, caring and the history of avocados go to the UC Riverside avocado site: ucavo.ucr.edu

U.S. availability of avocados

The U.S. imports about seven times as many avocados as it grows domestically.

Sources: USDA Economic Research Service, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Californiaavocado.com Photos by staff, The Associated Press and David Stottlemyer for the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources