Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Posts Tagged: avocado

Why 'AA' is for Avocado Addict

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Avocado addicts know the avocado as a veritable green goddess that never disappoints, never deceives, never dissatisfies. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

If you're like most of us, you “go bananas” for a banana for breakfast.

It's healthy, nutritious and packed with potassium.

But wait! You should probably go bananas for another fruit--that pear-shaped avocado. Did you know the avocado provides more potassium than a banana?

It does. A medium-sized banana yields 422 milligrams of potassium, while a medium-sized avocado, a whopping 708 milligrams.

Dietitian Linda W. Adams
Dietitian Linda W. Adams of UC Davis Occupational Health Services (among her responsibilities: teaching a 52-week UC Davis Diabetes Prevention Program) says “I think my favorite part about avocados, in addition to their wonderful flavor, is that they are full of monounsaturated, heart-healthy fat AND have more potassium than bananas! These two nutrients are lacking in many Americans' diets.”

“Eating more unsaturated fats -- as opposed to saturated fats and processed carbohydrate -- is a delicious step we all can take to maximize cardiovascular health,” Adams says. “Avocados are such a delicious way to do that!"

We love our avocados, our veritable green goddess that never disappoints, never deceives, never dissatisfies, whether we “butter” them on toast in the morning for breakfast, or slice or chunk or cube them for our salads at lunch and dinner. Health-conscious folks call them a superfood, and even mash and freeze them to ensure a steady supply in the winter. There's even a website on “50 Things to Love About Fresh Avocados.” 

This year, California's 2000 avocado growers anticipate a yield of 374.6 million pounds. That crop forecast, according to Tom Bellamore, president of the California Avocado Commission, is nearly double the yield of the 2017 crop and “despite the ravages of Mother Nature in California's avocado growing regions.”

UC Cooperative Extension adviser and avocado researcher Ben Faber of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, points out that the avocado is really a fruit, not a vegetable. “The Supreme Court classified the tomato in 1920 or so as a vegetable because that's the way people think of it and it was taxed differently for tariffs. Politics or botany separates a lot of things in our lives.”

“The avocado is an amazing fruit,” Faber says. “It grows on a tree and comes to maturity, reaches certain oil content and a stage at which it will ripen, but it does not ripen on the tree. It needs to be removed from the tree before it will soften. If the fruit is removed before it has reached maturity it will not soften, and will remain rubbery and inedible.”

“One of the problems is that the fruit will hang on the tree for an extended period of time and it is hard to know when they are mature,” Faber points out. “Avocados are not like apricots where you have about two weeks to get the fruit off before it falls off. As the fruit stays on the tree, it gradually develops more and more oil content and has a richer flavor.”

What if the fruit stays on the tree too long? “It can develop an almost rancid flavor,” Faber says. “So it is good to know when the best, acceptable flavor is. Avocado varieties fall into general seasonal periods when they are mature, such as ‘Fuerte' and ‘Bacon' in winter, ‘Hass' in spring/summer, ‘Lamb-Hass' in summer/fall.”

An avocado must be removed from the tree before it will soften, says UC Cooperative Extension advisor Ben Faber. (UC ANR Photo)
We've all had our share of rock-hard avocados that seem as if they will never ripen. Sometimes they're as hard as the pits within! “Given time, they all soften,” Faber says. “But they all don't soften evenly, which is a reflection of their maturity or how they were handled in the food chain, stored at the wrong temperature or with too many bananas.”

The fruit will typically be ripe in seven to ten days, Faber advises. “If you want to speed things along a bit you can take three or four avocados and place them in a loosely closed paper bag with two or three Red or Golden Delicious apples or ripe kiwifruit. The purpose of the apples or kiwifruit is that these fruit produce a natural plant hormone, ethylene, that will help stimulate the avocado to produce its own ethylene. Apples and kiwifruit are known to produce lots of ethylene. The Delicious apples are varieties that produce more ethylene than other apple varieties. You can keep them even after they are shriveled and they will be producing ethylene.”

Never place your avocados in a plastic bag “unless you keep it open since the fruit needs to breathe during this process,” he says. “Just keep the fruit on your kitchen counter or in a warm place; 68F is the ideal temperature. Lower and higher temperatures both actually slow the process.”

Plant scientists trace the origin of the avocado (Persea americana) to south central Mexico. The avocado belongs to the flowering plant family, Lauraceae. Growers and gardeners glean tips on pest management from the industry and from the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program.

Of the many known varieties, avocados fall into three broad categories based on whether they are of the Mexican, Guatemalan or West Indian races of Persea americana, the avocado species and the crosses that occur between these races. Generally speaking, California varieties have been the result of crossing between the Mexican and Guatemalan races. West Indian race varieties are not common here because of their generally lower cold tolerance.”

Ben Faber, like Linda W. Adams, enjoys avocados. He usually buys them “whenever they are reasonably priced.”

“One of the reasons I do research is that all the downed fruit is not salable because it is against food safety restrictions to introduce it into the food chain and all that fruit either gets eaten by coyotes or me,” he quips, adding “The tree is too big to fit into my backyard.”

The avocado, often thought of as a vegetable, is really a fruit and it's packed with potassium. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Looking for a great recipe? The California Avocado Commission offers many recipes, including what it calls “The Best Guacamole Ever."  

Dietitian Adams shares one of her favorites at https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a19872947/avocado-tomato-salad-recipe/.

Avocado Tomato Salad
Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp. cumin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3  avocados, cubed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1  small cucumber, sliced into half moons
1/3 cup corn
1  jalepeño, minced (optional)
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Directions
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. 

In a large serving bowl, combine avocados, tomatoes, cucumber, corn, jalapeño, and cilantro. Gently toss with dressing and serve immediately. 

Enjoy! The avocado keeps good company!

Posted on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at 8:22 AM

During California Invasive Species Action Week, learn about invasive species

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Californians can help in the fight against invasive species by learning and participating during California Invasive Species Action Week, June 2–10.

During the week, the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program invites the public to spend lunch learning about invasive tree killing pests, aquatic nasties like quagga mussels and nutria, and how the invasive weed/wildfire cycle is altering our ecosystems. http://ucanr.edu/sites/invasivelunch/

The invasive species killing trees is causing sugar volcanoes to erupt on avocado trunks and branches that might be infected with Fusarium dieback. Fusarium dieback is a invasive, beetle-vectored disease that causes damage on avocado and more than 39 other tree species. The disease has spread in urban forests and wild lands in the Los Angeles basin since early 2012, and in Orange and San Diego counties since early 2013 and Ventura County in 2015.

The symptoms — staining, sugary exudate, gumming and beetle frass — are often noticed before the tiny beetles (1.5–2.5 mm) are found.

As its name suggests, these beetles bore into trees. Near or beneath the symptoms, you might notice the beetle's entry and exit holes into the tree. The female tunnels into trees forming galleries, where she lays her eggs. Once grown, the sibling beetles mate with each other so that females leaving the tree to start their own galleries are already pregnant. Males do not fly and stay in the host tree.

Shothole borers have a special structure in their mouth where they carry two or three kinds of their own novel symbiotic fungi. Shothole borers grow these fungi in their tree galleries. It's these fungi that cause Fusarium dieback disease, which interrupts the transportation of water and nutrients in the host tree. Advanced fungal infections will eventually lead to branch dieback.

Early detection of infestations and removal of the infested branches will help reduce beetle numbers and therefore, also reduce the spread of the fungus.

  • Chip infested wood onsite to one inch in size or smaller. If the branch is too large to chip, solarize them under a clear tarp for several months
  • Avoid movement of infested firewood and chipping material out of infested area

Avocado is one tree host. Shothole borers successfully lay eggs and grow fungi in many tree hosts, with some of these trees susceptible to the Fusarium dieback disease. For more information about tree host species, where the shothole borer is in California, and what symptoms look like in other tree hosts, visit the UC Riverside Eskalen Lab website or the Invasive Shot Hole Borers website.

Content in this post taken from the UC IPM Avocado Pest Management Guidelines. Faber BA, Willen CA, Eskalen A, Morse JG, Hanson B, Hoddle MS. Revised continuously. UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines Avocado. UC ANR Publication 3436. Oakland, CA.

Posted on Monday, June 4, 2018 at 1:04 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

Avocados go from Meso-American backyards to 'world domination'

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Avocados, now riding a tide of popularity appearing on toast in cookbooks and trendy restaurant menus, came late to commercial agriculture, reported Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley in Gastropod, a podcast that looks at food through the lens of science and history.

The 48-minute story features Mary Lu Arpaia, UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. Arpaia runs the UC avocado breeding program and is now studying varieties that will do well in the San Joaquin Valley climate.

Millions of photos of avocado toast are posted to Instagram every day. (Photo: Pixabay)

On Gastropod, Arpaia outlined avocados' humble beginnings in their native Mexico and Central America.

"It was grown as a dooryard crop tree and valued for thousands of years," Arpaia said. "There was no intensive production of avocado until the industries in California and Florida started about 100 years ago."

The most popular variety is the Hass, which is derived from a seed planted in La Habra Heights by a hobby horticulturist, Rudolph Hass, a U.S. Postal Service worker.

"The thing against it (the Hass variety) was it turned black when ripe. It's a great tree with great fruit, but it's black," Arpaia said. "So it just shows how things have changed."

Consumers now embrace Hass' black, bumpy coat.

Graber and Twilley spent time on the show describing the "avocado toast" sensation around the globe. The duo quoted an article in Vogue that says 3 million new pictures of avocado toast are uploaded to Instagram every day.

The future for avocados looks bright. Already China imports 32,000 tons of avocados annually, but the market potential is much greater.

"I can't even imagine how big avocado will get in China," said one of the Gastropod hosts.

Posted on Thursday, May 10, 2018 at 10:45 AM
Tags: avocado (11), Mary Lu Arpaia (2)
Focus Area Tags: Food

San Joaquin Valley farmers may one day produce avocados

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Despite hot summers and cold winters, UC Cooperative Extension specialist Mary Lu Arpaia believes the San Joaquin Valley could be home to expanded California avocado production, reported Gregory Barber on Wired.com

Currently, most of the state's avocados are grown in the mild coastal areas of San Diego and Ventura counties, where consumer-favorite Hass avocados flourish. But high land value and low water quality are limitations on the industry. The vast and fertile San Joaquin Valley beckons, but summer temperatures that frequently top 100 degrees and occasional winter freezes aren't ideal for Hass.

Arpaia has planted a variety of avocado cultivars at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in eastern Tulare County to determine which trees produce creamy, nutty avocados, and maintain other desirable traits - such as high yield and small tree size - while subjected to the valley's climate extremes.

The California Avocado Commission funded the orchard's establishment.

"The industry wasn't really too keen about me putting a site here (at Lindcove)," Arpaia said. "But I'm stubborn and that's why it's here."

Each year three new avocado varieties are planted in the orchard. Though the breeding process is slow, Arpaia dreams that one day avocados will be sold in supermarkets much like the wide variety of apples.

"We're probably 20 years behind the apple industry at this point," Arpaia said. "Do we have anything out here that's going to achieve that dream?"

Finding an avocado variety ideal for valley temperatures has other benefits. It would give citrus farmers another option should their industry be threatened by Huanglongbing (HLB) disease. Already, the pest that spreads HLB, Asian citrus psyllid, is established in some parts of the valley and spreading. Once a tree is infected with HLB, it cannot be cured.

“Growers have made good money on avocados,” Arpaia said. “In the San Joaquin Valley, water is relatively cheap and we have better water quality than San Diego County. There are good, well-drained soils. Avocados' frost sensitivity is similar to lemons. If farmers have property where they can grow lemons, they could try avocados.”

 

Avocados planted in a research plot at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center.
Posted on Friday, January 6, 2017 at 11:43 AM
Tags: avocado (11), Mary Lu Arpaia (2)

Drought is forcing changes in California ag

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Avocado growers are being hit with a triple-whammy.
California farmers are changing the way they grow avocados to deal with three distinct problems that are cutting into profits: rising fertilizer costs, spikes in water rates, and competition from avocados grown in Peru, Chile and Mexico, says University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser Gary Bender. He was quoted in a story on Takepart.com about looming price increases for much-loved guacamole.

It takes 74 gallons of water to produce one pound of avocados — and drought-stricken California produces 95 percent of the avocados grown in the United States, wrote reporter Padma Nagappan.

Bender has been working with several farmers to experiment with high-density avocado planting, in which the trees are pruned to grow up rather than out. Growing more trees on less land will reduce water costs.

“The only way you can compete with cheaper imports and the high cost of water is if you go high-density and get more production per acre," said a San Diego area farmer.

Fallowing farmland is one way to reduce water needs.


An article in Growing Produce said the state has issued curtailments to some farmers who hold surface water rights. Because water rights law is so complex and because this is the first time many growers have had to navigate the finer details of water rights, Brenna Aegerter, University of California Cooperative Extension advisor in San Joaquin County, suggests that growers consult a professional for targeted advice.

Because of reduction in surface water availability, many growers are turning to groundwater to irrigate their crops. However, groundwater presents its own set of challenges, Aegerter says.

“There's a shallow water table but it's not good quality,” Aegerter says. “It's salty water. I think right now the main concern is what the water quality is going to be — whether it's going to be salty, and whether that will affect the crops.”

In the Westlands Water District, growers are using a combination of increased reliance on groundwater and fallowing for their water management plans, according to Tom Turini, UCCE advisor in Fresno County.

“The groundwater is lower quality than the district water — with levels of total dissolved salts and toxic ions varying from well to well — but generally higher than ideal, ” Turini says.

Posted on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 10:53 AM
Tags: avocado (11), Brenna Aegerter (1), drought (1), Gary Bender (2), Tom Turini (1)

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