How Avocados are Grown
Obsessed with California avocados? Same. The superfood sensation is synonymous with California cuisine and a favorite of health nuts everywhere. Here’s everything you need to know about California avocados.
Where are avocados from?
Avocados originated in South Central Mexico around 5000-7000 BC, but there’s no historical evidence of cultivation until around 500 BC. In the 16th century, when Spanish explorers arrived in Central America, they were enamored with the fruit (yes, avocados are a fruit!). Since they couldn’t pronounce the original Aztec word, they christened the fruit a more manageable “aguacate” which eventually evolved into “avocado”.
When were avocados first grown in California?
Avocados made their way to California in 1871. After their initial introduction, the avocado industry quickly picked up steam. When the Haas variety hit the scene in the 1920s, it became the darling of the avocado industry. This particular avocado was prized for its larger size and longer shelf life. Almost 100 years later, it remains the most popular variety grown in the Golden State. Over 95% of California Grown avocados are Haas avocados.
Fun fact: The Hass avocado is actually a California native! Every Hass avocado can trace its roots to a mother tree in La Habra Heights, CA.
Where are avocados grown in California?
Did you know that California grows about 90% of the Nation’s avocados? Avocados grow along the California coast, from up north near Monterey, all the way down to San Diego. In Southern California, some avocados even thrive in inland areas like Los Angeles County and Riverside County.
Fun fact: Fallbrook, in San Diego County is the self-proclaimed avocado capital of the world! Fallbrook is home to an 80 acre avocado orchard planted by Rudolph Hass, the man credited with “discovering” the Haas avocado (which was, obviously, named after him).
Are avocados a fruit or a vegetable?
Avocados are a fruit – more specifically, a berry! It makes sense when you stop to think about it. They are classified as a fruit because they have a seed (pit) and develop from the flower of a plant. Because they’re not as sweet as most fruits, avocados are often mistaken for a vegetable.
Is it safe to eat the avocado seed?
The jury is still out on this one. Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to eat the pit as is, but since research hints that the avocado seed may hold certain health benefits, perhaps you can grind it to make flour or to make a tea. However, information about health benefits of the seed have been garnered from animal research.
For now, we’ll stick with gorging ourselves on that luscious, creamy interior.
When are avocados in season?
Avocados are in season from spring through early fall in California, with peak season occurring from April to August.
How are avocados grown?
Avocados are grown on trees – which if left unpruned will grow to massive heights. For this reason, many farmers prune their avocado trees to keep them at a more manageable height. Pruning also helps to increase yields, improve the health of the tree, andimprove the quality of the crop. During the spring, avocado trees are covered in a mass of blooms, but a fraction of those blooms (just one percent!) will ultimately become a California avocado. After the blooms are pollinated, fruit sets and continues to increase in size. Avocado trees are unique because they hold fruit in two different stages of growth. One crop is more mature and close to harvest, while the second crop is still quite immature.
Fun fact: One single tree can produce up to 200 pounds of avocados per year!
How do farmers know when avocados are ready for harvest?
Avocados are picked when they are still hard and unripe since they continue to ripen after harvest. Young avocados have rough skin and a bright green hue. As they continue to grow in size, the color will darken and the skin will smooth out. When the skin turns a blackish hue, that means that the oil levels in the fruit are increasing.
At this point, farmers test the oil content of the fruit (to make sure that the final product is creamy and delicious). If the oil levels are above 8%, that means the fruit is ready to harvest!
How are avocados harvested?
Avocados are hand harvested by a team of skilled workers. Cotton gloves are often worn to protect the delicate fruit. The team uses clippers or a picking pole to gently remove the fruit that is ready for harvest. Because an avocado tree holds two seasons worth of fruit, the team needs to be careful to leave the immature fruit undisturbed. After the avocados are harvested, they are gently placed in bins.
What happens after avocados are harvested?
After harvest, the bins of avocados are stacked and transported to a processing plant. Here, they are quickly cooled (typically with water) and then washed, polished, sorted and labeled. Avocados are then packaged by hand into trays, boxes, or bags. The avocados are placed into cold storage until ready to head to your local grocer.
How are avocados transported to the store?
Refrigerated trucks transport California Grown avocados from the packing house to your local grocer. Transporting them at a lower temperature prevents the avocados from ripening before they hit the shelves of your favorite grocery store.
How can you tell if avocados are California Grown?
Look for the California Grown license plate on the product packaging or the store’s shelves. Pro-tip: Stores are required to list the country of origin for produce. If the avocados were grown in the United States, it’s safe to say they were California Grown.
Learn more about how to tell where your produce is from!
Our friends at California Avocados shared the easiest way to tell if an avocado is ripe and ready to enjoy. Gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand. A ripe avocado should be firm, but will still yield to gentle pressure.
Avocados should not be stored in the fridge until they are ripe. To speed up the process, place your avocado in a brown paper bag. Store at room temperature until the avocado yields to gentle pressure.
Pro-tip: Need your avocados to ripen as quickly as possible? Try adding an apple or kiwi to the bag. They give off ethylene gasses that will speed up the process.
Our friend Jerry James Stone shared this genius hack for keeping cut avocados fresh for a week!
It isn’t so much a question of “can you” freeze avocados since you can technically freeze anything, but rather a question of should you? Freezing avocados whole can alter their creamy texture. If you find yourself with an abundance of avocados and would like to try freezing them, our friends at California Avocados share their favorite methods for freezing avocados.
California Avocados have a bit of a cult following. Don’t believe us? There are over 13 million uses of #avocado on Instagram…and that’s not even counting any other related hashtags. But which avocados are the best avocados? In our humble opinion, the best avocados are California Grown avocados.
Hundreds of different avocado varieties exist, but only seven are grown commercially in the Golden State. Hass avocados are by far the most widely grown, accounting for almost 95 percent of all CA Grown avocados. Learn more about other varieties of avocados grown in California.
Meet a California Avocado Grower!
Michelle & Jack Rudolph of Stepladder Ranch and Creamery grow avocados and citrus in Cambria, California. They also make some seriously incredible cheese.
How it’s grown
If you loved learning how avocados are grown, check out some of the other blog posts in our “How it’s Grown” series…
Article by Hilary Rance. Photography courtesy of California Avocados, Alison Needham & James Collier.