Wednesday, August 10, 2011
5 Secrets from the Avocado Grove...
Did you always wonder how they get those avocados from WAY, way up in the tree? Or when does the grower know it's time to pick? How does an avocado ripen?
Read on for some "secrets from the grove" - (cue music that sounds like "secrets from beyond the grave").
1. GREEN: Avocados do not ripen until picked. That's right, they stay hard as rocks and bright green until picked.
2. NOT TILL I TELL YA! The growers are TOLD by the USDA when they can start picking (Hass at least...it's called a release date). Often growers want to be "first to market" -- but if they jump the gun, there are super secret ways (involving chemicals and science) for the USDA to tell if they picked early -- and then they get punished (e.g. - can't sell their avocados).
3. 499 AVOS ON THE WALL, 499 AVOS! (SING IT CHILDREN). Non-Hass avos aren't usually regulated (no release date). Since all the other 499 varieties only make up 5% of the market - the growers have to keep track of those "ripening" periods themselves (usually in a very weather-beaten little notebook -- from my experience). The Diva has a spreadsheet - so she know which farm/ranch has what variety and when I can contact them to DEMAND (uh - I mean request...) the BEST and FIRST fruit for my monthly customers.
4. Cool Tools: See the nice, friendly guy with the yellow picking tool? (Photo). He is using a special cutter that reaches WAY, way up into the tree. The metal ring usually holds a little bag to catch the avocados. The tool has a super sharp, nasty little cutter I like to call "don't cut my fingers off PLEASE". The pickers use this tool for those high up, remote avocados. This guy (doesn't he look happy?!) had to take the bag off - because the avocados he was cutting for the Diva were WAY too big to fit into the normal bag. They just got caught by the ring. Then he would plop them down to me (or some youth-group kids -- this is a church orchard! Holy Guacamole!) and we would put them in a wheelbarrow.
5. Keep it Short: Most trees are kept pretty short (topped) so that the pickers don't have to climb ladders. Avocado trees are often planted on hills - because the root systems like good drainage - which a slope provides. And slopes make for danger on a ladder. Also -- by keeping the trees short and stubby - the tree puts it's energy into make fruit, not growing taller.
6. Bonus Secret: The pickers carry big bags (they would make a cool purse for a Diva!) and clippers to snip the fruit off and throw into the bag (often held on their back - over their shoulder, with a big canvas strap). Those bags can carry 50, 60, 70 lbs of avocados! They can strip a tree of 400 to 500 avocados in less than 30 minutes. (Pirana of the orchards!) You can only imagine how hard working and strong they must be to carry that much fruit and move that fast.
So now you know more than 99% of most people about avocado picking and orchards! Share your wealth -- and raise a chip filled with guac to those hard working growers and pickers.