Friday, February 3, 2012

The Hass Avocado: From LA to Chile

After numerous visits and 2 months of living in Chile, it's safe to say that Chileans love avocado. You find it included in many dishes, salads, and even some things you wouldn't necessarily expect is you were an outsider...like the lomito, the Chilean national sandwich comprised of mounds of pork, avocado, an mayo.

I've often compared much of the Chilean style of cuisine to that in California, especially when looking at the seafood similarities. But you'll often find many of the same ingredients in Chilean find cooking that you will in California such as tomato, mango, parsley/cilantro, and avocado.

With these similarities, it got me wondering about the avocado here in Chile, so I studied it's roots.

I had noticed something on my last trip to a local veduraria: with all the types of avocados out there, the ones I see all over Santiago seem to look and taste almost exactly like the ones that grew outside my apartment in Santa Monica, CA.

Seemed pretty odd.

With all the fruit exports from Chile to the United States, I would understand if the avocados at the supermarkets that I went to in the US had the same type of avocado that was grown in Chile, imported from the South American country.

But I'm not talking about the ones in US stores...I'm talking about the tree outside my window that I would pick avocados from.

So I dug into this mystery.

Turns out the avocado tree growing at my Santa Monica, CA apartment is the same exact type you find here in Chile. But the history of it was surprising.

The Hass avocado has it's roots in good-ole' Southern California, first grown by a amateur horticulturist named Rudolph Hass in 1926 in La Habra Heights, CA in Los Angeles county. Hass then patented his avocado and began selling clipping of the plant throughout the area. The year-round bounty of the fruit compared to other types of avocados and it's ability to grow in multiple climates made it so popular with other growers.

In 1949, the Hass avocado was introduced to Chile, and started to be grown there. It didn't take off very quickly as consumers preferred the green skinned "Fuerte" avocado, mistakenly calling it a "California" avocado, despite it actually being from Mexico (while the Hass that they disliked actually was from California).

Fast forward to 2011 and the Hass avocado is the largest cultivar in Chile, now comprising almost 70% of the total avocados grown in Chile.

So when you are in Chile, enjoying a tasty lomito or some other dish with avocado, be sure thank California for creating this dandy type of avocado.

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