Thursday, April 19, 2012

What was THAT noise?!

The Sounds of an Orchard

Have you had the sheer joy of walking through a fruit orchard? Walking in a straight line – with towering trees on either side – clear blue skies seen in bright, glorious stripes overhead? It’s an amazing sight – but even MORE so – it’s an amazing SOUND. 

Walk with the Avocado Diva – and HEAR with I hear…

First you notice the wind – sometimes whispering through leaves. Then it might rattle a few boney limbs of trees that need to be pruned. Every once in a while – a gust of wind will burst through – and the trees will make a chorus of sounds – raspy gasps of leaves and branches straining to hang onto their trunks – a grunt here and there with squeaks of protest from the larger limbs.

Once you get used to the almost spooky nature of the wind – you notice the sound of bees. There are ALWAYS bees in fruit orchards.  Avocado orchards have something blooming almost year ‘round. The “alternate” pollinator trees may be in full bloom – while the dominant trees are not. Or if you are very lucky – its full bloom time for the Hass – and the bees are making a MASSIVE sound. A hum that can almost overwhelm you with it’s sensory overload. Your primal brain fears the threat of that hum. On those days, I don’t dare to part the leaves and peak inside the trees – looking for the green pears that drip from the branches deep inside the trees. Best to leave it alone – and leave the busy bees to their work.

Next – if you pay attention – you’ll notice the crackling of leaves under your feet. Most avocado orchards are carpeted in dry, brown leaves scattered in thick layers along the rows and encircling the trees. The dry, crunchy leaves blanket the ground, keeping in the expensive, precious water so hard to find in the desert of southern California – but so critical to growing these subtropical fruit. Crunch. Crunch, Crunch – your boots help pulverize them into smaller, more decomposable pieces. Like a child – once you are aware of the leaves, you want to stomp on them and hear the crunch. Taking joy in the fun of mashing them and hearing them snap and pop! 

Again – if you are very, very quiet and stand quite still – you will hear wildlife. The screech of a red-tailed hawk or two – high overhead…. circling on the thermals – fighting over mates and territory.  The raucous crows will caw-caw and make that horrible crow “gurgling noise” that sounds like African drums - cawing in a staccato that makes you grow goose flesh and shutter.  

Quieter and quieter now – if you stand really still – you’ll soon hear the scurrying feet of small rodents and reptiles in the dry, crackling brown carpet of leaves. Quick – hurried feet most likely mean a squirrel or a rat! Tiny sounds could be a lizard or a mouse. The sound I most dread – the steady, constant rattle of the leaves – is a snake. Their long, lithe bodies make a long, constant “hiss” of moving, dried avocado leaves. It makes me shutter – and quake. It’s because of them that I always wear boots in an orchard. Finally – coming out of my fear… I can move again as the hiss fades away from me. 

Crouching down now, to try and stay absolutely still: I hear another very low but constant sound. The sound of water – squeaking and shushing out of hundreds of tiny, constant drip feeders. Avocado trees love water – but they don’t like swampy roots. So water is given like an “IV” – in a constant, slow drip – hour after hour. 

Now – with patience and a keen ear and a bit of luck you’ll hear the clip-clip-clip of another thirsty creature – the coyote.  Again – the light, steady “crunch, crunch, crunch” sound of a critter coming through the bone brittle leaves – this time a four footed fellow. Greedily – he is too impatient to lick from the slow dripping black water valve, he uses his canines – and rips open a gash in the black tubing that snakes through the orchard bringing water to each tree. The precious life blood of water pours our uselessly in the middle of a open area – he drinks his fill – then lopes away – head down – aware I’m there – but not caring. Almost smiling at how he steals the water and makes the rancher angry with his greedy destruction. 

I carefully ease up from my crouching position – adding a new noise – the creaking of my own knees ...and walk out of the orchard as quietly as I can. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What Avocado Tastes Best? (Seasons of Avos)

People say - Hass tastes the best - What does the DIVA say?! 

Heritage avocados grow YEAR ROUND in California -- so here is a list of what kinds are ripe - in which months.

What this means to YOU is -- what month(s) should you steal that avocado from a neighbor's tree -- no wait -- that's not right.  ;-)
This avocado is REALLY full of oil - you can see how creamy it is. If flesh sticks to the pit - its usually a good sign...

What it means is -- in California -- Hass are BEST in summer and early Fall.  Even I eat Hass during the summer as they are very delicious.  For all the other months, here is the Diva's preferences:

January - Bacon , any lonely - late season Lamb or Hass (still on a tree?!) 
February – Bacon or Zutano
March – Bacon, Santana, Fuerte, Steward, Zutano
April – Fuerte, Bacon, Pinkerton
May – Rincon or Pinkerton
June – Edrinol or Pinkerton 
July – Lamb, Hass, Reed, Nabal (if you can find any!)*
August – MacArthur, Hass, Lamb, Nabal*, Reed, Lady, Daley, Mattew Davis
September – Frey, MacArthur, Reed, Nabal*
October -  Late season summer varieties if you can find them, , late Mexicola, Morro Bay Hass
November – A hard month... :-(    The Diva goes into mourning -- may eat an import 
December – Bacon avocados, San Diego Zutano

You MUST eat the right avocado in (or after) it's correct season - otherwise they can be rubbery, watery, or (if they are too early) they shrivel - because they do not have enough oil in them yet. 

Avocados don't start to ripen until you pick it off the tree. Then they ripen up in 7-10 days - depending on their oil content. The later in their season - the more oil - the more quickly they ripen (it still takes at least 5 days). 

Once an avocado is in season - say a Fuerte comes into season in spring (April) - it can "hang" on the tree for up to 18 months. And all that time, its filling up with oil. So if you can find a "late season" avocado - like a Fuerte that is STILL on the tree in June or July or the winter!  -- it will be VERY OILY and delicious!  Very heavy and quite flavor-full. (And yes, they can go rancid. If you find an avocado on the ground, that is ripe, mostly likely it will have bite marks on it - because it FINALLY go SO full of oil a rat or squirrel nibbled on it.)

REWARD FOR READING MY BLOG: (You should follow the Diva on Facebook - because whenever I get a GREAT avocado - like late-season ones, or the ever elusive Nabal - I eat it. Then I put a notice on Facebook that I have some for sale - and they sell in hours!!  If I get a LOT of great avocados - they always go to my Diva Club members first.) 

One of my VERY favorite avocados is the "last of the season" Hass from orchards in Morro Bay, California - they hold an avocado festival up there in September. PLUS it's almost in Northern California (whereas the Diva lives in Central Coast -- and San Diego/Fallbrooke are South - almost in Mexico).  So what THAT means is that avocados ripen FIRST in the South (San Diego) then move up (Orange County, LA county, Ventura County - then up to Santa Barbara and finally the north - e.g. -- Morro Bay).  

When all the Hass are gone from down south and even in the Diva's area -- the Morro Bay avocados are still ripening -- and hanging on the trees.  It's SO worth it to go up there in September or October and buy their late Hass!  They are still oil filled and creamy and amazing! *Drool*

In any case -- you probably didn't want to know THIS much info -- but here it is. Enjoy!! 

And it you want to take all the "guess work" out -- OR you don't live in California -- why not join my Diva Club and let US find the best avocados, in season, and ship them right to your door each month? 

* Nabals -- yum. They are very rare. And considered a "rancher's secret". They don't like to sell them. They eat them themselves and hoard them for friends and family.  If I am lucky enough to get a Nabal -- I usually ship them to my Diva Club members first.  (Or I hoard them....).
This is a terrible picture of a Nabal - but it tasted GOOD.  They are very round, hard skinned and SO AMAZINGLY TASTY!!  One guy on Facebook offered me $10 per avocado. But I ate it. ;-) 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why does my avocado turn brown?!

An amazing Fuerte avocado - this is after 1 hour
One of the most common questions that the Diva get's is:
"Why does my avocado (or guacamole) turn brown?"

Answer -- to get to the other side!!  ha ha

Oh wait, wrong answer.

Correct Answer: Avocados "oxidize" when they are exposed to air. Just like an apple or a potato.

Here are several ways you can keep your avocado from going brown too fast:

  1. Use an acid on the flesh (lemon juice, lime juice are often used). 
  2. Use a non-metal knife to cut the avocado (ceramic, plastic or teflon coated). 
  3. Eat a really fresh avocado (like my heritage avocados!)
  4. When done, store with a tight fitting plastic (wrap or tool). 
See the picture of the avocado above? Would you believe I set it out for over an hour with out treating it? I cut it up for my daughter's lunch - but then got sidetracked - for an hour. 

I was AMAZED when I came back and saw how little it had "browned"!!  But then again, my Avocado Diva avocados are REALLY fresh. They don't travel thousands of miles from another (3rd world) country. They don't sit in refrigerated trains or semi-trucks. They aren't "gassed" to get them to ripen. 

Order a box and try them for yourself!