Let’s go back to the last time you ate an avocado, mashed up with chips as guacamole or sliced on a salad, taco or toast. It was probably of the Hass variety, that avocado with thick dark green pebbly skin. But the Hass wasn’t always the most common avocado on the market.
Avocados have been grown in the Central American tropics since at least 750 BC, according to the California Avocado Commission. California didn’t get its first avocado trees until the 1800s. Only one variety survived the severe frost of 1913 and was so named the strong, or fuerte in Spanish, avocado. By the 1950s, two thirds of all avocados grown and packed in the Golden State were of the Fuerte variety.
As the avocado industry expanded in the 1970s to meet growing consumer demand, farmers looked for fruit to ship across the country in bulk that could easily hide blemishes picked up along the way. Since the Fuerte’s smooth thin green skin hides bruises poorly, the Hass avocado with its tougher bumpy skin gained ground. Now in many parts of the country, including in California, the Hass is what you’re most likely to find in the produce aisle.
Should you wish to break free and try lesser-known avocado varieties, JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch grows 20 varieties throughout the year. Laura Ramirez works on the farm and says the Fuerte’s season runs from fall to spring. Its rich, buttery flesh oxidizes more slowly than other varieties so the Fuerte will stay green longer in your favorite dishes.
Chef Kevin Meehan buys Fuerte avocados from JJ’s at varying stages of ripeness so he can use them throughout the week. At Kali near Larchmont Village, Meehan glazes the Fuerte fruit in avocado honey before searing it in avocado oil. He scoops out the caramelized flesh and serves it with a mix of greens and a house dressing. (You read that right: we’re talking about hot avocados here.) His charred avocado salad will be on the restaurant menu as long as Fuertes are in season. Try it yourself with the recipe below.
Charred Avocado Salad
You can pick up avocado honey from JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch, Bill’s Bees, Honey Pacifica and Energy Bee Farm at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Or, you can also substitute with your favorite type of honey.
Yield: Serves 4
4 Fuerte avocados, ripe
2 tbsp avocado honey
1 tbsp avocado oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 lemons, juiced
½ cup pistachio oil
½ cup avocado oil
¼ cup pistachio, roasted and chopped
Fresh chives, minced
Preserved lemons, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
Salad Mix Ingredients
A handful of thinly shaved vegetables (baby carrots, broccoli, celery, turnips, radish, etc.)
A bowl of ice water
A handful of mixed baby kale
For the avocados: Halve and pit the avocados (leaving the skin on). Using a pastry brush, glaze the avocados liberally with the avocado honey and season with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a hot sauté pan. Sear avocado halves, flesh side-down, in oil until golden brown and caramelized. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
For the dressing: Mix all dressing ingredients together and set aside.
For the vegetables: Using a mandolin, shave all of the vegetables. Refresh in a bowl of ice water.
To serve: Using a spoon, scoop out avocado carefully, leaving the flesh in one piece. Lay one-half on a plate and drizzle with dressing.
Next, remove the shaved vegetables from the ice water and dry them. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with the baby kale and add the dressing. (The ratio of kale to vegetables can vary according to personal preference.)
Place half of the salad mix on top of the plated avocado and top with the second avocado half to create the effect of a sandwich. Scatter the rest of the salad mix around the plate. Finish by drizzling the dressing on top and around the plate.