What?! Avocado’s aren’t just a summer fruit?
There is no bad time of year to eat a creamy avocado. The delicious green fruit from Mexico is always in season, even in the dead of winter. And not only is it delicious to your tastebuds; it’s great for the rest of your body, too! The antioxidants in tropical fruits such as avocado help protect cellular proteins and lipids, the molecules that, for instance, keep your skin healthy and hydrated. And on a cold winter day, when all you want is a bowl of something warm, avocado can turn a bowl of soup into a hearty meal, like this classic tortilla soup recipe!
But were avocados always available in the winter? Let’s have a quick geopolitical history lesson!
For eight decades — most of the 20th century — the U.S. enforced a complete ban on the import of avocados from Mexico. Fears of disease and pests meant Americans had to satisfy their avocado cravings solely through the bumpy green fruit produced domestically. The policy changed, however, with the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, on January 1, 1994.
California avocado production peaked in the last two decades of the 20th century, dropping off dramatically in the new millennium, post-NAFTA. At the same time, Americans’ avocado consumption has gone up … way up. Since 1994, the U.S. has more than quadrupled its annual avocado consumption. Now, Americans eat more than 1.65 billion pounds of avocado every year. California can’t meet the demand alone, especially with water shortages and other growing challenges.
And then there’s the fact that California’s growing season lasts only from February to September, peaking over the summer months. Satisfying the year-round craving for avocado meant sourcing the fruit from the country that could produce it year-round: Mexico. It was NAFTA that paved the way for increased imports from Mexico, where the avocado growing season never ends.
Avocado is native to central Mexico, with archaeological evidence traces the fruit’s origins to the state of Puebla more than 12,000 years ago. A Hass avocado tree, the most prominent cultivar in Mexico, can produce as many as a million flowers each bloom, and it blooms two or even three times each year. When pollinators are doing their job, up to 500 of these blooms will eventually become the creamy green fruit you know and love.
The orchards where these trees grow, primarily in the state of Michoacán now, are responsible for almost half of the global avocado market. Avocados can stay fresh on a backyard tree for many months after reaching maturity, but on avocado farms, the fruit is gently hand-picked, packed, and shipped in bulk as soon as it’s ready. The moment it is cut from the tree, the avocado begins to ripen, so that when it reaches your table, it has the soft, creamy consistency you know and love.
So don’t worry about winter’s onset and what it means for your fruit and vegetable intake. You don’t have to cut back on your favorite avo dishes during cold weather months. Whether you are prepping your best guacamole or adding avo to another warm winter dish, like this spicy white chili, avocados will be available all winter long!