Friday, February 17, 2012

How YOU Helped Discover and SAVE an Avocado Variety!

This is the tree "we" helped save -- well, actually the tree will probably not be saved... but the avocados it produces will live on and on...This is the story and a bunch of cool photos follow at the end. 

Last summer (August, 2011) a story came out in the Ventura County Star (our county's largest newspaper) about the Diva and her love of rare, unique, "heritage" avocados and the trees they grow upon. A very nice man emailed the Diva to say his mom had a tree that was very old, produced some amazing avocados, and that soon the tree would probably have to be cut down. He wanted to know if the Diva had any ideas for how to save the avocado tree.

I exchanged several emails with Mr. Davis and suggested a couple of ideas:

a. He could contact the internationally known nursery that grafts most of the commercial avocado trees for all of California, Brokaw Nursery. It just so happens that they are in the same town as his mother's house and tree!

b. He could also contact the commercial nursery that grafts trees for the consumer market - LaVerne nursery, which is also in Ventura County (in Piru, California).

It turns out that Mr. Davis had already worked with a couple of exotic fruit growing hobbyists to take scions and make grafts. Mr. Davis had attempted to do that too -- but with little luck. So it turned out that Brokaw Nursery was kind enough (and interested enough!) to send a professional out. Mr. Davis called him an "avocado whisperer" - he checked out the tree, spent quite a bit of time observing it, looking at it's leaves, it's bark, and finally took several cuttings (in late November) when he determined it was at the optimal time to produce budwood that would graft well.

In January (2012) -- Mr. Davis' mother passed away -- and it was time for the family to sell the old family home. The tree will probably have to be cut down - as it is very old, very large, and towers over the home - making it not easy to insure (plus there are several other issues).

Avocado trees don't move well - it's not like you can dig it up (the root system would be several dozen feet wide, for one thing) - plus they just stop producing fruit after several decades.

The great news is -- in February -- Brokaw Nursery called Mr. Davis and (yippee!!) the grafts worked well! They had several small trees growing - and Mr. Davis was SO kind - he gave the Diva one! Mr. Davis and his family will all attempt to grow them, as well as several other friends. So this tree will live on through the traditional process of cutting, grafting, and growing more "baby" trees - just like we've been doing in California since the Spanish landed near Dos Pueblos (above Santa Barbara) since the 1800's.

I plan to grow my tree inside my house for a couple of years in a large pot -- and when it gets larger and stronger - then I will transplant it and grow it on the hill in my back yard.

Thanks to you (seriously) - for encouraging me, for following my blogs, for responding to my Facebook posts, and for purchasing the Diva's avocados, tools, spices, etc. Because of "us" -- you are helping me preserve these grand, old trees and these fabulous heritage avocados. Please check out the photos below - as they help tell this awesome story.

The Davis Family home in Ventura, California - tree on the right

The tree was probably planted in about 1930 - the home is now surrounded by industry (oil firms, warehouses) and a few apartment houses. It will most likely be sold and torn down to be replaced by something similar. 

This is one of the avocados from the tree - the family got to name the variety (which is traditional). Mr. Davis named it for his grandson, Matthew Davis.  I took this photo on a local beach in Ventura. 

Here is one of the nursery's tag's for a scion, noting the newly named variety's name (Matthew Davis), where it came from (Ventura) and the date the scion was cut. 

Here is my little tree along with one of the immature fruits from the "mother tree". (Feb 2012)

Why Won't My Avocado Ripen?!

A variety of California Avocados - 3 winters and 2 summers

So the avocados above were all picked during the winter - but two of them are not winter avocados. Who cares? You may -- read on to find out why one is going to be SUPER delicious and one will NOT be.

So here's what they are named (from left to right):
a. Pinkerton
b. Bacon
c. Lamb
d. Fuerte
e. and the "big guy" in the front is a newly named avocado called a Matthew Davis.

The Lamb and the Matthew Davis are both summer avocados. So how can you have a summer avocado in winter time?  There are two ways:

1. The Lamb was "overlooked" when the pickers picked this orchard and left a few of the Lambs on the tree - way, way up on the top branches. Avocados can "hang" on a tree for many, many months. They don't ripen until they are picked or when they fall off the tree. So finding a few avocados (especially Lambs, Hass or Edrinols) left on a tree is a special treat. They just keep adding oil and get yummier and yummier. (But if they are left too long - they can go rancid... so its a delicate balance here...).

2. The Matthew Davis is the opposite - it was actually picked in February -- but it isn't ready to be picked. If you can believe it, this avocado is only about 1/3 to 1/2 of the size it will be when ripe. It grows HUGE. It is also not ready to eat, because its oil content is too low. The flesh will never really ripen. It will slowly shrink along it's ridges and just rot. When avocados are picked too early, they just get wrinkly (usually from the top down) and stay rubbery.

So now you know! California avocados, all 500 varieties of them, grow year 'round here in the sunshine state. You do need an expert to help you know when they are ready to pick. You can find some of that info here at the Avocado Diva's website and by following me on FaceBook or this blog! Thanks for reading.

(P.S. -- If you'd like to find out more about the amazing Matthew Davis -- and how the customers of Avocado Diva helped save this variety - click on this link to read that blog story.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Avocados - The once forbidden, "love" fruit...

Did you know that at one time - the avocado was considered an aphrodisiac?! Yes -- just being caught seen eating one could have gotten you put on the "naughty list"!  In some European countries, women were forbidden to eat them. 

Since the avocados came from warm, tropical climates (featuring ladies with little clothes on from foreign lands) -- and in the "olden days" - an avocado would have been SO rare, so exotic.

Plus they DO kind of resemble a certain pair of male items ---  just say'n.

Undoubtedly the "poor man's butter" (as avocados were called on ships) gave the sailor or traveler a real boost of energy - from its 20 minerals, plenty of protein - it probably DID help with a person's "health" - shall we say?!

Enjoy this silly "sexy avocado" video (rated G - pretty much...)
I'm an Avocado Song and Video  if you wish. Note its about avos from Mexico -- but -- on this international day of romance, I think we Californian's can still embrace this love song from an avocado.

What could YOU do to "spice up your love life" with a delicious avocado? ;-) Here's wishing you a Happy and Healthy Valentine's Day from the Avocado Diva.

Friday, February 10, 2012

All About Pinkertons

The Pinkerton Farm's mail box - of course its green!

The Pinkerton avocado kind of makes my heart warm. It was hybridized by a local Ventura County family (the Pinkerton family -- duh).  Back in the "day" everyone was trying to "create" a fruit that would be the "it" fruit. Tasty, grew all year around, had a good flavor, great flesh, would sell nice, etc. Many, many farmers and ranchers tried. That's one of the reasons we have so many varieties.
3 classic Pinkertons - YUM!

The Pinkerton is not a commercially successful avocado for several reasons:
  • It's too long and pear shaped (doesn't work so well for the packing houses machinery to wash, store, ship it). 
  • The poor fruit ripens from top to bottom (as it has a long, skinny neck and a fat bottom... the Diva can kind of relate...)
  • Because of its elongated neck -- if you cut it like a typical Hass -- (from top to bottom) - you often get a stringy mess of over ripe avocado (at the top) and a not quite rip portion (at the fat bottom).  But there IS a solution -- read on...
The Pinkerton IS a good avocado for eating for these reasons:
Peel it to get ALL the nutrients!
  • It is very yummy - full of rich oils and a strong, earthy, very "avocado-y" taste. 
  • It has a pretty tough skin, so it doesn't rip easily.
  • Its a winter fruit - ripens in Jan - March 
  • The skin peels easily - so you can get to the nutrient right, very "green" flesh. 
  • It has a fairly small pit - so lots of flesh for the money
  • It turns black as it ripens - so you know its ready (in fact, it turns quite ugly! but tastes good)
So to overcome the "not commercially viable" parts of the Pinkerton -- 
the Diva suggests you eat it this way: 

 Cut it AROUND - not top to bottom. Simple!

Cut the top off when it is soft and ripe. You may have to throw away the first one or two slices. You can see they are brown and the "strings" are quite easy to identify. The next 3 or 4 slices are pretty, soft and delicious! The fat bottom is NOT ready (still hard) and needs another day or two to ripen.

 You can save the bottom half like this: rub the exposed part with a lemon (or any acid - lime, orange, grapefruit, even vinegar will work!) and then wrap it tightly. I often use plastic wrap (right against the flesh - very tight) and pull it over and tighten it with a twisty tie. It will stay nice until it ripens on the counter for another day or two.

So if you are lucky enough to GET a Pinkerton -- just treat it RIGHT and know how to eat it -- and you'll add a brand new, delicious variety to your avocado list. Knowledge is power!

(Check out Avocado Diva Recipes for more ideas on how to cook with the Pinkerton!)