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Avocados
16 March 2009

Avocados

While at my favorite Mexican food restaurant in California I once overheard two guys from Alabama ordering burritos for lunch.  When asked if they wanted guacamole the first guy said "What's that?" to which the second guy replied "It's the green goop made from avocados."  The first guy was quite sure he didn't want any of that "baby poop" on his burrito.

Juan We had some similar experiences while living in New Hampshire.  When we first moved there we were pleased to discover a "Mexican" restaurant just down the street from us.  Our hopes were quickly dashed though when the "chips and salsa" they brought us was actually potato chips with ketchup.  I don't think guacamole was even on the menu.

The local New Hampshire grocery store had their own food preferences as well.  They only sporadically carried avocados and when they did they were always these shriveled up little black things.  The local clam chowder, lobster and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches were great but the fresh produce left a bit to be desired.

Hawaii has yet another set of unique food quirks.  Milk is amazingly expensive (not many cows on the island) and large tomatoes are difficult to grow (too many fruit flies and other insects).  On the other hand, grocery stores usually have plenty of fresh tropical fruits.  It's easy to find things such as papayas, mangos, bananas, pineapple, coconut and of course avocados.

Californians are proud of their Haas avocados but that's only because they don't have any of Hawaii's Sharwil avocados.  Many consider Sharwil avocados to be a gourmet avocado.  They stay green when ripe, unlike Haas avocados which turn black.  Other than that, they look very similar.

Boxes We have five producing Sharwil avocado trees on the farm.  All together they can produce approximately 1500 pounds of avocados.  That is far more than any one family can eat so we sell the extras.

We would love to sell our avocados on our website but exporting fruit from Hawaii is difficult.  Freshness, packaging and cost of shipping are all concerns but the main difficulty is obtaining government approval.  The skin of Sharwil avocados is think enough that it is one of the only fruits not affected by fruit flies yet, probably due to the strong California growers unions, all exported avocados must be packed in a fruit fly proof, APHIS approved and inspected packinghouse.  Needless to say, that is impossible for the small farmer to do.

So we sell our avocados to the local wholesaler.  We tried a couple different wholesalers but felt that we weren't being treated fairly.  Then we discovered Pat's Avocados.  He packages and sells avocados to Costco here in Hawaii.  He won't buy from just any avocado farmer but we have managed to make the cut.  It probably helps that our avocados ripen late in the season when most of Pat's other growers have run out.

Pat Pat has a crew of workers that inspect, sort, clean and package the avocados.  The lower grade avocados get sent to restaurants while the larger unblemished ones go to stores like Costco.  Apparently consumers are picky while professional chefs are willing to cut off the bad parts and use the rest.

At "farm gate" prices (lower than wholesale), we don't get much money for the avocados, just enough to make it worth the effort of picking them.  Picking enough for one load can take almost all day.  The easy to reach avocados go fast, it's the high ones that can only be reached with a ladder that take all the time.  This year I convinced my friend Matt to help.  My brother helped some too.  Even with their help, it still took three days to get all the avocados we could reach.

The worst part about picking and selling all the avocados came after I delivered the last batch.  I was cleaning out my truck when I discovered an old receipt on the floor.  It was a receipt from Costco.  Among other items purchased, the receipt shows a charge for $4.99 for avocados.  Great... I went through all the trouble to pick and sell the avocados at farm gate prices just so we could drive to Costco and purchase them back at retail prices.  Valerie swears the receipt isn't ours but I don't know how else it could have found its way into my truck.

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