Oh, the Avocados You're Missing!

Avocados are grown in places other than California, of course. They're grown in Florida, Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and New Zealand, and each place has different growing seasons that will overlap and allow for Hass to be available year-round. Hass are good avocados, especially when they're stored properly and eaten fresh. But an avocado isn't a beautiful thing just because it's an avocado. A slice of watery green on the plate, a dull flavorless scoop from a fruit you bought only days before: Just because it's called "avocado" doesn't mean your brain should switch to "This is delicious!" automatically.

According to the Hass Avocado Board, consumption of avocados has grown more than 200 percent in the past decade, and outgrowing and outpacing that of other fruits. A total of 484 million avocados were consumed in 2000. In 2012? Almost 1.5 billion. That's a lot of avocados, and that's a lot of Hass avocados.

I asked Will Brokaw about his favorite variety. After all, he's got access to so many. "I usually eat Hass during the spring and Gwen during the fall. But Gwen is my favorite. The Gwen really is." 

He also likes the Reed, which, while delicious, is a very big avocado. Since he is just one guy who cooks for himself, a baby avocado like the Gwen makes more sense. He picks from his own stock, grabbing a ripe avocado right out of storage to put on toast. For a second I got lost in a reverie about the idea of having an entire stock of my own baby avocados and seriously considered becoming an avocado farmer.

The Reed looks like a big green softball is possibly the most misunderstood of all avocados. I didn't understand them myself for a few years, until I finally let one get ripe enough and discovered how delicious they be. Will agreed. When it comes to the Reed, "You really need to break people's stereotype. It's very important they don't cut into them too soon. There's always an expectation just by the looks of them they're going to be a lousy avocado. There's a threshold to overcome. When you overcome the threshold, it's very potent. It makes it even taste better."

Speaking of expectations and taste, I relayed my own disappointment regarding the Bacon avocado. "It's my absolute least favorite," I told him. I said I've had a hard time finding a Zutano that I can get into. The Bacon and Zutanos are different from Hass, Gwens, and the other Guatemalan varieties in that they have a lower fat content, which means they won't be as rich and creamy.

We had another avocado bonding moment when I was gratified to learn that the Bacon and Zutano avocados are mostly grown on the Brokaw farms in order to pollinate the other varieties. Although Will takes them to markets, where they do sell. I've heard people say the lower fat content is a reason for eating them more often, given their flavor and texture profile. I'd rather eat a smaller, richer Gwen or Hass, or even a chunk of a Pinkerton or a Reed. To me, Will's method of "a single serving avocado" makes more sense.

***

In California we are spoiled with our abundance of produce. But even here I watch people at the market, surrounded by variety, as they reach over the Gwens for a Hass, or say to someone "A Bacon avocado? What?" It's even interesting to think of how many more varieties there are available in the world, and to wonder which might be commercially viable and just as, if not more, delicious.

You can order avocados from Will Brokaw when they are in season, as well as from other growers here in California, if you are so inclined. Or seek out a Hass avocado from your local market, remembering where they come from and when they might be in season there. The whole point is to eat and enjoy a good avocado by letting it get perfectly ripe, spreading it on some nice toast, and sprinkling it with a little salt, perhaps a touch of good salsa. At least, that's the way an avocado farmer does it. 

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Leah Reich is an ethnographer and writer based in Oakland, California.

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