Organic avocados in California represent a growing trend in the organic produce business. In 2004, the acreage for organic avocados was just over 2,000, but that amount is growing all the time as more people see the benefits of organic foods.
Types of Organic Avocados in California
There are actually seven different varieties of avocado grown in California, according to the California Avocado Commission. Hass avocados account for 95 percent of all avocados grown, but it should be possible to get all of these varieties grown organically, depending on the season:
- Bacon: mid-winter, medium-sized
- Fuerte: late fall through spring, medium to large
- Gwen: most of the year, medium to large
- Hass: year-round, variety of sizes
- Lamb Hass: summer through mid-fall, large
- Pinkerton: early winter through spring, large with small seed
- Reed: summer and early fall, large and round
- Zutano: fall and early winter, medium to large, yellow-green skin
All avocados have creamy flesh and an almost buttery taste. If you don't live near California you may not be able to get the seasonal varieties of organic avocados, but you should be able to find organic Hass avocados from California year-round at your local organic food store.
Characteristics of California Avocados
There are organic avocados that are not grown in California, but California produces 90 percent of America's avocado crop. In fact, 60 percent of that comes from just one county: San Diego County.
Wherever they're grown, organic avocados in California are a very nutritious option for mealtime or snacks. Once available only to royalty, they are now relatively inexpensive and enjoyed by about 43 percent of all households.
Avocados are sodium free and cholesterol free. Their five grams of fat per serving is high for a fruit, but it's almost all monounsaturated fat, which is the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil.
Avocados have about 20 vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. There are 50 calories in about an ounce of fruit. Avocados are a good source of potassium, as well as folate, vitamin E and vitamin C. When eaten with foods that contain fat-soluble nutrients like beta-carotene, avocado helps your body absorb more nutrients.
The average avocado tree produces about 60 pounds of fruit, but some trees have produced as much as 200 pounds of avocados in a single season.
Avocados and the Environment
Avocados are a great fruit to buy organically, but California growers of avocados use integrated pest management methods to keep the pesticide levels low on those fruits that are grown with conventional methods.
Avocado trees are good for the environment, removing carbon dioxide from the air and producing about 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two avocado trees produce enough oxygen in a year for a family of four, and one orchard removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide every year.
Using California Avocados
Organic California avocados are a great choice for salads, wraps and sandwiches. A couple of slices added to a sandwich gives a creamy mouth feel, so you can skip the fatty mayonnaise.
A delicious and healthy way to enjoy avocados is to replace the bacon in your BLT with avocado (or just add avocado to your BLT). You'll get more nutrition and a healthier fat if you ditch the bacon.
Of course, the most popular use for avocados is making guacamole. Everyone has their own recipe for guacamole, but the basics are:
- Ripe avocados
- Lime juice
Dice the jalapeño and chop the cilantro. Add to mashed avocados and stir in lime juice. Some people also add chopped onion, minced garlic or chopped tomatoes. You can also season it with hot pepper sauce and/or cumin if you like things hot and smoky.
Avocados are also great on top of a hamburger or on a southwest-style salad. It's a cooling taste that is a great addition to a spicy meal, from tacos to grilled fish. Knowing that you're getting a lot of vitamins and minerals, a good dose of healthy fat and eating organic all at the same time should make you happy to work more avocados into your diet.