I’ll come right out and say it. We, as humans, don’t deserve the avocado. We lie, cheat and steal. We engage in war and bigotry. We allow “culinary” establishments like Taco Bell to thrive.
Why should we be given the right to possess, let alone ingest, this wondrous, pitted fruit that is so beautifully exquisite in its subtlety of flavor that angels cannot help but shed tears of joy when they allow a mere thought of eating one to pass through their heavenly minds?
That is a complex question that shall remain unanswered. Let’s just enjoy what we’ve got.
What we’ve got, as residents of Central California, is access to the finest avocados available. One can dare to dream of all the slicing, dicing, mashing and even ice-creaming creations for which these bliss-inducing beauties are ideal.
Tackling the idea of avocados is no simple task, due to their sophisticated and understated character. Sixteen years passed before I could fully appreciate their magnificence. These dimpled, deep green, subtly-flavored balls of mush have captured the hearts and stomachs of a hugely diverse population.
“Subtly flavored” might actually be the key to the universal adoration they have. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to flavor, but the avocado is not a flavor so much as it is a personality. In this case, it’s irresistible. Adventurous, yet homely. Bold, yet malleable. Suave, but not too talkative. Avocado is the Dos Equis guy of the farm stand, but with more versatility. It invigorates even the most boring foodstuffs, yet can add a lustful aura to an already beautifully variegated and fragrant dish.
It might be shocking, then, that the avocado only became an American obsession around the year 1994. Dr. Lauren Garner, an associate professor in the Horticulture and Crop Science department and the faculty supervisor for Cal Poly’s own orchard that contains avocados, said that the huge increase in the popularity of avocados about 20 years ago was due to a shift in marketing more than anything else.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect in 1994, resulting in (among other things, of course) an influx of avocados imported being from Mexico. To offset their lost profits in the newly oversaturated market, American avocado growers began aggressively advertising their crops, leading to far more widespread consumption in the U.S.
“You couldn’t get a decent avocado on the East Coast until (NAFTA),” Garner said.
It’s almost inconceivably fortunate that we can swing by the store and pick up a handful of these buttery ambrosia-orbs on a whim, because growing avocados is not nearly as simple as growing other, more common crops. Dr. Garner has firsthand experience raising avocados from seedlings to harvestable maturity.
“To go from flowering to an avocado that you can harvest takes more than a year, which makes them challenging and expensive to grow,” she said. “That’s a lot of oil that needs to accumulate in a piece of fruit.”
Furthermore, avocado crops are highly sensitive to frost, which means that in the U.S. they can only be grown in a few year-round warm climates, like those of Southern California and Florida.
Regardless, we still receive our fresh, verdant avocados each year, and there are usually plenty to spare. Excess opens the door for decadence and experimentation, and in the last 20 years Americans have wasted no time exploiting their seemingly unending supply of avocados for those purposes.
The Internet is awash in recipes and suggestions. The California Avocado Commission website suggests using its namesake fruit in anything from buttermilk pancakes to blueberry muffins (see recipe video above). Garner, however, prefers to stick to the basics. We’re talking guac: “If it’s just me, it’s avocado, a little lime, a little salt — done.”
You’ll have to move quickly if you expect to conjure a quality avocado-infused concoction anytime soon. The California avocado season is almost over, and won’t be back in full swing until spring.