When you hear the word Avocado, you immediately picture a dark, wrinkly, pear shaped fruit with that green and pasty center. What you’re picturing is the Hass avocado, the most popular and in demand variety of avocado in the world. What most people don’t know is that Hass Avocados are just one type of avocado among hundreds found across the world. For centuries, horticulturists having been buying and planting avocado seedlings to discover new varieties of the beloved fruit.
Before any English speakers in North America had seen a Hass Avocado, inhabitants of central and south america had been eating wild avocados for thousands of years (Avoseedo, 2016). It is thought that Mexicans began cultivating avocados approximately 5000 years ago by growing domesticated avocado trees. Europeans eventually found the fruit during their search for new land. Early in the 16th century, Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to set their eyes on an avocado tree. One of the first to do so was Gonzalo Fernandes de Oviedo. A translation of his first findings read, (Avoseedo, 2016)
“They are large trees, with broad leaves similar to those of the laurel, but larger and more green. They bear pears weighing a pound and even more, though some weigh less, and the color and shape is that of true pears, and the rind somewhat thicker, but softer, and in the center of the fruit is a seed like a peeled chestnut . . . and between this and the rind is the part which is eaten, which is abundant, and is a paste very similar to butter and very good eating and of good taste." (John S. Shepherd and Gary S. Bender, 2001)
The Spanish people gave avocados the name “aguacate.” Over the following centuries several other conquistadores (Spanish explorers hoping to redeem undiscovered land) would find breeds of avocados all over America. Pedro de Cieza de Leon found trees throughout the area that is now Western Columbia throughout 1532 and 1550, as well as in Ecuador and Peru. Francisco Cervantes Salazar was one of the first explorers to find the presence of avocados in Mexico, where it is now one of the world’s greatest suppliers of the fruit. Though human kind has been aware of the fruit for several centuries, mass cultivation within North America only began less than 200 years ago. (John S. Shepherd and Gary S. Bender, 2001)
The process of cultivating North American soil began in the mid 1800s when a man named Dr. Thomas J. White imported a variety of tropical fruits from Nicaragua. This would eventually become common practice for interested horticulturists, however White was one of the first to do so. White planted his first avocado tree in San Gabriel during 1856. Though the tree did not last, it was this act that sparked interest in mass avocado cultivation within California.
Today, California is one of America’s largest exporters of Hass avocados. According to Dr. F. Franceschi, a well-known and respected horticulturist of his time, the first orchard of Ahuacates planted in California was by Kinton Stevens on Palm Avenue in Montecito. Not only was he the first to begin planting avocados in the United States but he also was the first to issue a list of tropical/semi-tropical plants in California. His first orchard in 1895 consisted of approximately 120 trees from Mexican seedlings. Unfortunately, Stevens died shortly after his orchard was created, and it did not last due to drought. Shortly thereafter, William Hertrich would become the first man to successfully commercialize an avocado orchard within California. Hertrich built the orchard in 1908 for Henry E. Huntington. While the orchard was being planted, the Los Angeles Athletic Club continuously saved avocado seeds that they had obtained from avocados imported from Puebla, Mexico. The seeds were placed in pots to grow and then given to Hertrich. Eventually, 400 seedling trees were planted in the orchard (John S. Shepherd and Gary S. Bender, 2001). According to Franceschi, another noteworthy horticulturist was Mr. J. C Harvey who is responsible for the Ahuacate trees that have been grown on College Street as well as Elysian Park in Los Angeles, California (Ira J. Condit, 1916).
It is surprising that since there have been over a hundred varieties of avocado grown since the start of the 20th century that the world has committed to eating basically one time: the hass avocado. Like many varieties of avocado before it, the growth of the Hass Avocado in California started out from three seedlings. Rudolf Hass bought and planted these seedlings in 1926, one of which growing a tree that no one in California had seen before. This tree was known as the Mother Tree, which 95% of all avocados coming from California can trace their lineage to. The Mother Tree lasted for 76 years, dying of root rot in 2002. Though the Mother Tree is long gone, cultivation of the Hass avocado is as popular as it’s ever been.(Fresh Avocado, 2017)
Hass trees depend on a combination of conditions to thrive, all of which exist in the state of California. For a Hass tree to grow it depends on mineral rich soil and a tropical-like climate with the right amount of humidity. After a tree has been planted it can live for decades and grow avocados just 3 to 5 years after planting! (Fresh Avocado, 2017)
Try out this Baked Egg Avocado recipe, we can bet you've never seen this before!
Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com.
- 1 avocado, halved and pitted
- 2 eggs
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
- Place each avocado half in a ramekin. Crack 1 egg into each avocado half; season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Place ramekins on a baking sheet.
- Bake in the preheated oven until entire egg is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle each avocado with bacon and chives.
Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com.
 Avoseedo. "A Brief History of the Avocado." AvoSeedo - Grow your own Avocado Tree! June 10, 2016. Accessed April 09, 2017. https://www.avoseedo.com/a-brief-history-of-the-avocado/ (Avoseedo, 2016)
Ira J. Condit . HISTORY OF THE AVOCADO AND ITS VARIETIES IN CALIFORNIA WITH A CHECK LIST OF ALL NAMED VARIETIES . California Avocado Association, 1916 (Ira J. Condit, 1916)
 John S. Shepherd and Gary S. Bender. A History of the Avocado Industry in California. California Avocado Society, 2001 (John S. Shepherd and Gary S. Bender, 2001)
 "From plant to plate: The journey of the Hass Avocado :: Fresh Avocado." The Journey of the Hass Avocado. Accessed April 09, 2017. https://www.avocadocentral.com/how-to/how-are-avocados-grown. (Fresh Avocado, 2017)