From Plant to Plate
The Hass avocado has grown from the rarest of crops to one of the most popular fruits of its kind. Yes, the avocado is a fruit. And the journey of a Hass avocado is a natural wonder that combines careful cultivation, delicate handling and meticulous attention to the ripening process. The result is the unique buttery flavor and creamy texture that has made Hass the king of avocados.
The birth of the Hass avocado was essentially a stroke of luck.
Rudolf Hass, a California mailman, and amateur horticulturist purchased and planted three avocado seedlings in 1926. One grew into a tree whose fruit had never been seen.
The skin of this new avocado was dimpled and thicker than most. The color changed from green to purplish-black as it ripened.
Today, every Hass avocado is a direct descendent of what became known as the “Mother Tree.”
That’s because branches from that tree were used to grow more Hass avocados, rather than planting the seed. Growers found that grafting small stems onto the seedling of another type of avocado produces a tree that matures faster and bears far more fruit than one grown from a Hass seed.
From Fruit to Flower
Hass trees flourish in regions with the right combination of mineral-rich soil, plentiful sunshine and mild climate (moderate humidity, cool nights and warm days). A tree can range from 15 to 30 feet tall, depending on the region it’s grown and the horticultural practices used by orchard owners.
Ripened to Perfection
Hass trees are harvested gently by hand. To separate the fruit from the tree, workers carefully cut the stem of the avocado, using a pole pruner to pick those above arm’s reach. Attached to the pole is a catching basket or bag that captures the harvested Hass, preventing it from falling to the ground and bruising.
Controlling the ripening stage is critical to ensure that Hass avocados arrive in supermarkets and restaurant kitchens at the peak of perfection.
Warm temperatures speed ripening. To slow that process in the packing house, the avocados quickly go through one of two processes. Some packing houses put them in pools of cool water, washing the avocados while lowering their temperature. Others chill them in specialized rooms and use machinery to brush the field dust off the avocado skin.
Once cleaned, the fruit is sorted by size and boxed in cartons. Hass avocados then are ready for shipping – all in less than a day after they’re harvested.
Most will quickly go into refrigerated trucks that take them to their destination. Depending on the distance, Hass avocados generally arrive at grocery stores, restaurants and other foodservice locations in two to four days.
Within another day or two, most are ripe and ready to eat.