California Hass Avocado Season Is Winding Down
California grown Hass avocados are slowing down in terms of volume. Organic growers in California are finishing up earlier than expected. We are on the edge of winding down, which means the largest production area from Northern LA to the Mexican border is finishing up. In 2012 we had a bumper crop which lasted well into November and in 2013 the organic season is expected to end late fall/early winter.
We saw much smaller fruit on the trees this year due to circumstances that vary by region. Most of the avocados are grown in Southern California in low moisture areas. Avocados are big users of water and this past season Southern California had a below average rainfall season. When the trees don’t receive the necessary amount of water the fruit will be smaller. Weather is another factor. One of our growers, En Divina Luz, in Riverside County said the cold winter weather in most of San Diego and Riverside County caused their fruit to take longer to size up. On top of that, the 103 temperatures lasting for a few days in May resulted in the bigger fruit dropping off the tree. The avocado trees were not acclimated to hot weather so the stems shriveled up and the avocados fell to the ground. En Divina Luz lost a large part of their crop this season because of the cold weather and the crop they harvested in June and July was mostly small fruit. Last but not least avocados typically have alternate bearing years. We will have to wait and see what the 2014 season brings us.
At this time of year all California avocados will be good but it is important to be aware of which area your avocado is from. Buyer beware! At this time of year you could see avocados from Northern California, think L.A. up to Santa Cruz, and Southern California, think Riverside and San Diego County to the Mexican border, all mixed in together in an avocado display. Older crop avocados from the southern area will be more mature, meaning they ripen quicker, have a higher oil content and should be eaten firm. They will become rancid if they are too soft. A sign of a very mature avocado with a high oil content is when the green/yellow flesh turns to a duller, almost mustard color. Newer crop avocados from the northern area are less mature because the season starts later and should be eaten riper with a little give. The trouble is most of the time you just don’t know what area your avocado is from. The level of maturity depends part in how long it has been on the tree, what region it is from in California and where in the season we are. Having avocados from 2 regions, means that we have 2 seasons and 2 levels of maturity overlapping in the same display. We always recommend starting a conversation with your produce person but your best bet is to eat firmer than you might think and adjust accordingly.
California avocado season will start again in February in San Diego and move up into the Santa Barbara area in August/September. The cycle of maturation means that the first crop of avocados won’t be as rich in oil content, but they need to come off the trees to make room for the 2nd more flavorful crop. Check back for more avocado updates as the Californian season ends and the import season begins.