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Avocado Varieties
An introduction for the layman
By Will Brokaw


Hass avocados are a Guatemalan variety.
Though the Brokaw family as a whole is involved in many facets of the California avocado industry, I'm not an authority on avocado species. Avocado academia (UCR) would generally be the best source of specific information on avocado species and their varying characteristics. However, if you are looking for a perspective from a fruit handler who has spent alot of time around avocados, I can tell you what I do know.

Avocados generally fall into three categories: Hawaiian, Mexican and Guatemalan. My knowledge is limited to the latter two.

Mexican Variety Avocados (includes Zutano, Bacon, Fuerte)

The Mexican avocado varieties tend to be pair shaped, smooth in skin and green in color. Varieties you may be familiar with include the Zutano, the Bacon, and the Fuerte. On average they have a lower fat content.

Optimum harvest time for Mexican avocados (in my opinion) is January-May statewide. Mexican varieties of avocado in general don't endure commercial post-harvest handling as well as their Guatemalan counter-parts, but the Mexican variety trees are generally stronger in frost conditions. The optimum harvest window for Mexican avocados is much shorter than that of Guatemalan. Hence, both large handlers and backyard growers alike often end up picking this fruit too early.

The reputation of Mexican varieties not tasting as good is unfair in my opinion. I can't speak about the Zutano through personal experience, but a properly tree-matured Fuerte or Bacon is absolutely worth eating.

Guatemalan Variety Avocados (includes Hass, Pinkerton, Reed and Gwen)

The Guatemalan varieties of avocado tend to have a thicker and sometimes pebbly skin with a rounder shape. Their fruit tends to be higher in fat. Guatemalan varieties include Hass, Pinkerton, Reed and Gwen among many others. Though Hass skin usually blackens upon ripening/maturing, most Guatemalan variety skins stay green through final use.

Guatemalan avocado optimum harvest-time is markedly longer spanning from January-September in southern California. They endure post-harvest handling more stoutly than their Mexican counterparts. Their trees tend to be less frost-tolerant.

Is the Hass Variety “the best”?

Many people assume Hass varieties are better than all others. If you are someone who buys Hass year-round from grocery stores,however, you'll find that Hass avocados are actually low in fat and watery 6 months out of the year.

The green-skinned varieties that I've mentioned thus far have higher oil levels than Hass six months out of the year - making them superior (consumption-wise) during that period.

Don't get me wrong, the Hass is an excellent variety. The fact that it does taste the best 6 months out of the year is phenomenal. It does deserve a place in our hearts. But to truly enjoy California's avocado quality potential, one can't do it with Hass alone.

For additional information on avocado varieties, UC Riverside's www.ucavo.ucr.edu is an excellent resource.


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