by Kemp Minifie
A Beauty Avocado from the California Avocado CommissionCinco de Mayo is just around the corner and that means a larger than usual mound of avocados will soon appear in your supermarket. Why? Cinco de Mayo is one of the biggest days for avocado consumption during the year. Hello guacamole! Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the California Avocado Commission shared more interesting facts with me:
For 10 to 15 years the Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo played tag with each in the statistics department for top consumption of avocados, but in 2012 the Fourth of July beat them both! Who knew guacamole was so popular on Independence Day? It’s yet another example of the transformation of an ethnic ingredient into a mainstream one for all Americans. And avocados aren’t just eaten as guacamole! Check out these possibilities in the Epicurious.com database.
2. Consumption of avocados is increasing with all the major holidays, including St. Patrick’s Day. Avocados are green, after all. Now try to fathom this number: 1.6 billion avocados were consumed in the United States in 2012!
3. Do you realize that avocados are a fruit? We treat them like a vegetable, but technically they are a fruit. No wonder guacamole with fruit such as peaches, mangoes, pomegranates or even pears works so well.
4. Did you know that avocados mature on the tree, but they only ripen once they are off the tree? Even more amazing is the fact that avocados can stay on a tree for as long as 18 months. It’s as if the tree preserves them until you’re ready to use them.
5. The coastal regions of central and southern California, from around San Luis Obispo down to San Diego, are where 90 percent of the commercial domestic crop in the United States comes from. There’s a small crop in Hawaii but the avocados never leave the islands; the avocados are consumed there. Florida grows avocados, too, but their crop is much smaller and includes the big green Caribbean-style ones in which the flesh is less dense and rich.
6. All avocados are picked by hand. Labor and water are the major cost factors for avocado growers. And according to DeLyser, it takes a special individual to harvest them. Avocado trees are high, so a 16-foot pole with a pouch and clipper at one end is used to pick the out-of-reach fruit. Holding the pole, you cradle the avocado in the pouch, then pull a string on the pole to clip off the stem near the top of the fruit.
7. There is basically one season for avocados in California. The season stretches from around April through September. The trees usually bloom once a year, around February. Sometimes growers get another bloom in late fall, but that doesn’t happen often. Meanwhile, in Mexico, there are five different regions that grow avocados with five different climates and five different times for blooms.
8. Did you know that retailers can request avocados from among several stages of ripeness? Stage five is tender enough to be ready for guacamole, while stage four is considered “slice-ready.” If you want to hasten the ripening of an avocado, put it in a paper bag with a banana or apple.
9. What’s the best way to judge when an avocado is ready to eat? According to the California Avocado Commission, color is not an indicator. Squeezing it with your fingertips–known as digitizing in avocado business lingo–can leave bruises on the fruit. How many of us have made that mistake? Those in the know recommend you cup it in your palm and squeeze it gently. It’s ready when it’s still rather firm but gives in to gentle pressure.
10. Hass is the most popular variety of avocado grown around the world. The Hass tree was discovered in the backyard of a mailman named Rudolph Hass in La Habra Heights, California in the 1930s. Hass knew a good thing and he patented his tree in 1935. All Hass trees can trace their lineage back to that tree. But the Hass avocado had to wait about 35 years before it really became popular in the 1970s.