Califonia Bountiful

Avocados ripe for success in California

More people than ever are enjoying the "alligator pear." Find out more about this buttery-rich fruit.

Creamy, rich and seemingly decadent, avocados have become a staple for many of us. According to the California Avocado Commission, about 43 percent of all U.S. households buy avocados regularly.

But if you want to see how chefs are using the "alligator pear"—otherwise known as an avocado—stop by Hawks restaurant in Granite Bay, where they're exploring a variety of ways to use the fruit.

"We like to use California avocados because they're really versatile," said Michael Fagnoni, Hawks chef and co-owner. "We puree them, we serve them somewhat chunky and we can put things in them. They're just really tasty."

But chefs like Michael are just part of the equation of educating consumers on the many attributes of avocados. The real groundwork begins just there—on the ground of the 6,000 farmers across the state who now grow avocados. California farmers produce about 90 percent of the nation's total avocado crop. And that includes farmers like Mark and Linda Bruce of Simi Valley in Ventura County.

Not from a farming background and surrounded by a huge housing development, the couple really didn't know what to do with all of the lush land they had when they bought the property back in 2000.

"A friend of ours said, 'Hey, this would make a good avocado property,'" Mark recalled. "And not knowing anything about avocados other than I like putting them on my tacos, I said, 'Sure, let's do avocados!'"

With plenty of TLC from the couple, plus an arid climate and rich soil, this subtropical fruit thrives across their 65-acre ranch. The Bruces hope to harvest 15,000 pounds of fruit per acre this season alone. Each avocado is handpicked, making sure the stem is trimmed off so it doesn't scrape or bruise other avocados when it is packed. Then the fruit is driven to Mission Produce in nearby Oxnard.

There, they are processing upwards of 650,000 pounds of fruit a day and shipping it across the country—and the world as well. In fact, these avocados most likely will end up in grocery stores, club stores and restaurants near you, perfectly ripe, just a few days after harvest, thanks in part to some new technology.

And Steve Barnard, president of Mission Produce, says he's seen a steady increase in avocado consumption. On average, each American consumes about three avocados per year, but Steve thinks that will increase to five or possibly six avocados within the next couple of years.

So whether you try avocados in guacamole at your next party or you try them to support farmers like the Bruce family, the time is indeed ripe to try some California avocados.

Visit the California Avocado Commission website for more information about California avocados and to find Chef Michael's recipe for Chopped Summer Vegetable Salad with California Avocado Mousse.

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