Traveling the Guacamole Highway

Foodservice chain operators and trade publication editors sampled Avocado Risotto, Avocado-Lime Tart, Grilled Avocado and Drunken Lobster Salad and Avocado Smoothies and other colorful specialties during the recent foodservice grove tour conducted by the California Avocado Commission (CAC).

The tour, held at the height of the state's propagation and harvest cycle in late April, brought 20 operators and editors to San Diego County—home of the Avocado Highway and an annual festival celebrating the creamy fruit, and site of groves where a majority of the state's 750,000 avocado trees grow. Scott McIntyre, a seasoned grower and chairman of the CAC, and Dr. Guy Witney, CAC's director of production research, walked through avocado growing and harvesting practices. The group also witnessed Hass and other California Avocado varieties being cooled, screened, sorted and packed at a packing facility set amid some of the most productive avocado groves in the state.

Interesting trivia: Avocados do not ripen while still attached to trees; the ripening process doesn't begin until they're picked. That phenomenon helps make the fruit available year-round. Once picked, avocados ripen within 5-15 days.

All California Avocados are not alike: Two of the most commonly seen varieties are the Hass, which has a pebbly, dark skin; and the Greenskin, which has a thin, smooth skin. Typically they range in size from a petite 3.7 ounces, which yields about 1/3 cup of fruit, to a whopping 10.7 ounces, yielding nearly a cup, and larger.

The CAC offers the following tips for handling avocados:

  • Cradled in your palm, a ripe avocado yields to gentle pressure. Ripe avocados (and only ripe avocados) should be refrigerated at 36-40°F for up to one week.
  • To maximize shelf life, stack cases to allow good air circulation. Check daily and refrigerate ripe fruit.
  • To preserve a cut avocado's color, spray, brush or dip exposed surfaces with lemon juice or milk. Cover the cut surface with plastic wrap or foil, placing the wrap directly on the fruit.
  • For hot preparations, choose underripe avocados, called "breakers." They are easy to handle, soften during cooking and develop a pleasant, piquant flavor. Hot avocados retain their shape and color in most preparations. Avoid exposure to direct heat.