Buttery, creamy and savory, avocados are a versatile, nutrient dense fruit that provides healthy monounsaturated fats, a good source of fiber and important micronutrients and unique flavor. But it was a recent visit to see an avocado grove and a packing facility in the San Diego area that solidified just how special California avocados specifically really are.
California enjoys the most ideal growing environment for the fruit in the world, meaning that our avocados also have the very best nutty flavor you’ll find on earth. Our rich coastal soils, rolling landscapes, generous sunlight and 4,000 skilled growers operating mostly small-scale, family-owned groves are some of the factors that make our avocados shine.
California avocados are seasonal, and we’re currently experiencing the peak of the harvest. Visit your neighborhood store and take advantage of the optimal flavor you’ll find in your produce department now. Growers ramp up picking of the fruit around March each year. By May, picking is in full swing, and trails off around late September. At that time, you might see some California avocados still coming to market, but most of what you’ll find on shelves will be imported from Mexico, Peru and other far-flung locales.
In California, avocados are often grown on hills to allow for proper soil drainage. Hass avocados account for about 95% of varietals produced in the Golden State. Organic avocados currently account for 10% of the state’s total harvest and it takes three years of farming the land organically to obtain organic certification.
California farmers produce an average of over 300 million pounds of avocados each year, and this year the projected harvest is 350 million pounds! Many of them are scrutinized, sorted and packed for retailers at WestPak’s facility in Murrieta, California. Once the fruit is picked, there’s just a small window of time to get them into the hands of consumers, so the facility is run at a fever pitch with workers’ safety top of mind.
Avocados are sorted by the presence of any blemishes and their size. Many avocados are perfectly good to eat on the inside, but consumers may pass them over if there’s a ridgeline on the skin. These would be classified as #2s and are typically sold to foodservice where the consumer doesn’t see the external quality.
The #2s’ external appearance may have some blemishes but the internal quality is totally good. #1 avocados are picture perfect inside and out. Sizes 48 and 60 (about the size of what fits nicely in-hand) are the most popular in the market, however smaller sizes are gaining in popularity for snacking or for singles and couples without children that don’t need quite as much.
One of the most amazing things about the avocado is that there are infinite ways to eat them. Beyond popular avocado treats such as avocado toast, there are endless recipes to explore online—and a great starting point for your avocado recipe rabbit hole is the California Avocado Commission’s website.
Happy California Avocado Month—now go enjoy some of the incredible, peak season goodness.