Between insane global demand, climate change, and whatever trade-danger du jour the Trump administration’s cooking up, avocados are in jeopardy like never before. To save the beloved ingredient, horticulturists have been working to develop a variety that can grow year-round in California (as opposed to the current season, which runs from February through September), and NPR reports this week that there is now a trio of promising-looking ‘cados that might be able to fulfill the promise of more guacamole.
UC Riverside researcher Mary Lu Arpaia has spent 20 years trying to produce an avocado tree that can handle central California’s coldest and hottest months. She’s optimistic about a type called the GEM, which is related to the Hass avocados most people buy in stores. The slightly more ovular GEM grows lower to ground, has a higher yield, and doesn’t need much space — all great traits for weather resistance. It also beat Hass in a recent series of taste tests. The other two: a small variety called the “Lunchbox” (a subliminal message about when to consume it), and one that still needs a name, but Arpaia insists that it “makes wonderful guacamole.” Both supposedly peel nicely, and she adds that the unnamed one “doesn’t brown,” which would be pretty game-changing by itself if true.
California grows 90 percent of America’s avocados right now. But Americans eat more than 4 billion of the things every year, and such a colossal number still requires the U.S. to import 85 percent of them, mostly from Mexican farmers. During winter’s off-months, that amount rises to almost 100 percent. A year-round Golden State supply would obviously lower the price, thereby keeping avocado-toast addicts’ kvetching at a minimum, and it’s also a win for farmers because the fruit could theoretically thrive anywhere that growing conditions are similar to California’s.