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Avocados: Well worth the hass-le

Kate Thompson (right) at her New Brighton Farmers Market stall, with assistant Stevi Richardson. PHOTO: KATE O'NEILL
Kate Thompson (right) at her New Brighton Farmers Market stall, with assistant Stevi Richardson. PHOTO: KATE O'NEILL

THERE are hundreds of avocado varieties, each with their own unique size, shape, texture and flavour, but walk down the fruit and veg aisle at your local supermarket and you might get the impression the hass is the only type of avocado there is.

It's not that we can't grow other varieties in Australia, says Alstonville organic avocado grower, Kate Thompson, it's just that hass is the toughest. It's the one that can best withstand long periods of cold storage after it is picked, be transported over long distances, artificially ripened and then still look presentable when it finally reaches the supermarket shelf.

"They're thick skinned, they travel well, they can be rough handled and they'll cope with a lot of cold storage," said Kate, "they're supermarket friendly."

But Kate, who names the hass as her least favourite avocado, says it's a shame that people are missing out other varieties. Types like the green-skinned sharwil, or pear-shaped fuerte, both of which have a beautiful nutty flavour and creamy texture, or the lamb hass, also creamier than the standard hass.

At her farmers market stall, The Organic Avocado, Kate sells all of these throughout the avocado season, giving her customers tips on the handling, storing and eating of the different varieties, and has found that once people discover their wonderful taste and texture, they're hooked.

The hass does get a look-in at Kate's stall (it's still an excellent eating avocado, she says), but the fruit she sells is a lot different in flavour to the standard supermarket hass, thanks to the way Kate handles her fruit after it's picked. When they've reached the right oil content, they're simply picked from the tree, graded, left in the storage shed for a week or so to ripen, then sold at the farmers' market.

It's a stark contrast to the avocados sold through the big retailers, whose flavour is diminished by the days or weeks they spend going in and out of cold storage before they are artificially ripened with ethylene gas.

"It's why they taste so ordinary," she said, and why it's not surprising that I sell a lot."

> Find The Organic Avocado at the New Brighton and Mullumbimby farmers' markets.

Grow your own avocado

This is a fun experiment and, if you're lucky, you could even have your own crop of home grown avocados in three year times.

> Save an avocado seed.

> Use three toothpicks to hold it broad-end down over a jar of water, covering the bottom third of the seed in the water.

> Put it in a warm place out of direct sunlight and change water weekly.

> Within 2-6 weeks the seed should sprout. Once it is about 10cm tall, you can plant your avocado tree in a pot, or in the ground.

Topics:  kate oneill organic farming


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