The Florida avocado – so misunderstood, and so under appreciated. Sure, this gargantuan variety isn’t quite as buttery and nutty as its beloved Hass counterpart, but used in the right way this local fruit (yep, it’s a fruit) can quickly become a kitchen staple. “I think it’s a great product and use it whenever possible,” says Gabby Othon Lothrop, chair of Slow Food Orlando. “And they grow really easily and abundantly around here.”
In the Field
Florida avocados grow on a tree, which produces the large spherical fruit from July through January and February. The fruit does not generally ripen until it falls or is picked from the tree.
Backyard growers can purchase avocado trees at local garden centers, such as Apenberry’s. They usually start to become come available in the spring for about $39-$150. Once planted, it can take about five years before you start seeing your first batch.
One perk is that they are reasonably easy to care for. According to the University of Florida/IFAS Extension, all they need is well-drained soil, lots of sunlight and fertilizer every 1 to 2 months during the first year and 3 or 4 applications per year after that.
“The easiest way to determine if your avocados are ready to harvest is to harvest one large fruit and place it on your kitchen counter top. A mature fruit ripens in 3 to 8 days after it is picked. If the fruit does not ripen properly (e.g., shrivels, becomes rubbery or exhibits stem end rot), select another fruit (again larger fruit are generally more mature than smaller fruit at the beginning of the season) and repeat the test. The fruit from an avocado tree does not all have to be harvested at the same time. This feature allows you to leave the fruit on the tree and pick fruit only when you want to eat it.” – University of Florida IFAs Extension
On the Menu
Several area chefs have embraced the Florida avocado and are currently offering it on their menu, including Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant, where you’ll find Florida avocado joins arugula (from their own garden) and roasted tomatoes atop a Charred Beef Bruschetta drizzled with truffle aioli. Kevin has also snuck it into the Cobb De-Constructed, a salad made with lobster, house made bacon, blue d’auvergne cheese, Waterkist Farms tomato and lemon dressing.
Hemingway’s at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is currently featuring the Florida avocado in its Avocado Tasting, a trio of starters including guacamole, marinated avocado and tuna ceviche, and avocado panna cotta with prosciutto.
When in season, Chef Cory York uses Florida avocados in his Smoked Blu Crab and Avocado Nachos at deep blu seafood grille, and The Vineyard Grill at The Ritz-Carlton has whipped up a Floridian Frittata made with Lake Meadow Naturals eggs, heirloom tomatoes, lump blue crab, Florida avocado, and petite greens. Finally, Skyebird inside East End Market frequently serves a Florida Avocado Cheesecake smoothie that sounds pretty fantastic.
In Your Kitchen
Try Florida avocados when you whip up your guacamole this Super Bowl weekend! You wont’ be disappointed.
Florida Avocado Guacamole
By Chef Henry Salgado of Spanish River Grill and Txokos Basque Kitchen
2 pounds Florida avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1/4 cup tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced
Juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
In a mixing bowl, gently combine all ingredients.
Serve immediately or refrigerate, pressing plastic wrap on top to eliminate as much air as possible.
* image courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.