THE HISTORY OF AVOCADOS
The California avocado is a native American plant with a long, distinguished history. Today, the most popular variety is the Hass. The mother tree of all Hass avocados was born in a backyard in La Habra Heights, California.
The avocado (Persea americana) originated in south-central Mexico, sometime between 7,000 and 5,000 B.C. But it was several millennia before this wild variety was cultivated. Archaeologists in Peru have found domesticated avocado seeds buried with Incan mummies dating back to 750 B.C. and there is evidence that avocados were cultivated in Mexico as early as 500 B.C.
FROM AQUACATE TO AVOCADO
Spanish conquistadores loved the fruit but couldn't pronounce it and changed the Aztec word to a more manageable aguacate, which eventually became avocado in English. The first English-language mention of avocado was by Sir Henry Sloane in 1696.
CALIFORNIA'S CASH CROP
Fast forward to 1871, when Judge R.B. Ord of Santa Barbara successfully introduced avocados to the U.S. with trees from Mexico. By the early 1900s, growers were seeing the avocado's commercial potential and ever since growers, enthusiasts and researchers have been hunting for improved varieties. A search through the industry's foremost annals, in particular the California Avocado Society Yearbook, reveals that many new selections of avocado were made in the industry's infancy and over subsequent years but few had commercial significance. By the 1950's around 25 different varieties of avocados were being commercially packed and shipped in California, with 'Fuerte' accounting for more than two-thirds of the production. Even though 'Hass' was discovered in the early 1930's and patented by Rudolph Hass in 1935, it was not until large-scale industry expansion occurred in the late 1970s that 'Hass' replaced 'Fuerte' as the leading California variety.
Today, California is the leading producer of domestic avocados and home to about 90% of the nation's crop. Most California avocados are harvested on 60,000 acres between San Luis Obispo and the Mexican border, by about 6,800 growers. San Diego County, which produces 60% of all California avocados, is the acknowledged avocado capital of the nation.
California avocados are grown year-round. A single California avocado tree can produce up to 200 pounds of fresh fruit each year, approximately 500 pieces, although most average around 60 pounds or 150 pieces of fruit.