The Call It Green Gold
January 25, 2004 7:23 PM   Subscribe

Grand Theft Avocado [NYT, reg. req.] "When the Super Bowl comes, there is going to be thievery," Mr. Luce said. "People want guacamole." At a dollar a pound and up, avocado theft is a growing worldwide problem. Do you know where your dip came from?
posted by Jos Bleau (30 comments total)
Nice link. I'll make sure to ask my local grocer whether he's buying contraband guac' this Super Bowl season. Never can be too careful...
posted by Happydaz at 7:38 PM on January 25, 2004

To tell the truth, I didn't even know that avocados grew on trees until I read the Times story ...
posted by Jos Bleau at 7:47 PM on January 25, 2004

I just bought a California Avocado that is at least twice as big as a normal one. The skin is stretched thin and taken on a light-green translucent color, it has lost the familiar curves and become a nearly round ball from the extra weight. Are these common in CA? It is the first I have seen of the SuperSized McAvocado.
posted by stbalbach at 8:05 PM on January 25, 2004

""It's like identity theft," Lieutenant Kodadek said. "The problem is, when God made avocados, he didn't put serial numbers on them."

Sometimes, people open their mouths and flap their jaws, and the darndest things come out! "It's like identity theft...." Right then.

I wish I had an avocado tree. I if had one, I would be really nice to that tree. I love avocados.
posted by troutfishing at 8:09 PM on January 25, 2004

I have seen this theft firsthand. Some farmers have stands where they sell their fresh produce, but if you see a setup on a truck tailgate or in a hatchback, it could be stolen.

We had an avocado tree in our front yard in Calif. that blessed us with so many avocados that we could give away more than the neighbors really wanted. Avocado trees have gender, by the way, and you need them to cross-germinate. Sexy, isn't it?
posted by planetkyoto at 8:17 PM on January 25, 2004

Obligatory snopes link re: Super Bowl Sunday == Astronomical Avocado Sales, among other things (scroll down to the avocado bit)
posted by yhbc at 8:23 PM on January 25, 2004

Trout -

Shel Silverstein [yes, that Shel Silverstein] had a somewhat different take on avocado trees ...

[meant to be sung]
" Well, we married and she met my buddy Jim,
And you might say they went out on a limb;
And while I was out working nine to three,
They were there beneath the
A-V-O-C-A-D-O T-R-E-E,
Kissin' 'neath the avocado tree.

[CHORUS] Underneath the A-V-O-C-A-D-O T-R-E-E,
There's lots of little avocados green as they can be,
And if I had my way, my dear, it's here I'd always be,
Underneath the A-V-O-C-A-D-O T-R-E-E.

Then I came home one evenin' most surprisin',
And I caught them in a manner compromisin';
He said, "Can't we talk this over peacefully,"
Now he's buried 'neath the
A-V-O-C-A-D-O T-R-E-E,
I shot him 'neath the avocado tree."

It gets sadder from there ...
posted by Jos Bleau at 8:24 PM on January 25, 2004

Guacamole and Shel Silverstein... well, two of my senses are deliriously happy...
posted by wendell at 8:28 PM on January 25, 2004

I'm just curious as to why avocados would be any more prone to theft than other produce. Last time I went to the grocery store, tomatoes were nearly two and a half bucks a pound, apples were over a dollar, and oranges about a buck and a half.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:30 PM on January 25, 2004


I would suspect it has something to do with the longevity of avocado's after the crime. You have several weeks to find a buyer for your stolen property when it comes to "green gold". Also, as mentioned in the article, it's difficult to fence off the hills that avocado grows on.


Avocado has gender? PLANTS can have gender? According to this article, it does indeed occur in ~10% of flowering species, but I can't find anything online talking about avocado gender selection. Do you have any further information on this topic?
posted by effugas at 8:41 PM on January 25, 2004

We are growing an avocado from the pip of an avocado bought at a supermarket. We perched it in water until a root formed and then planted it - now, 5 months later, it is nearly a metre tall and brightens up the bathroom. So easy! I'm uncertain what gender it is, though, since we can't find its genitals.
posted by malpractice at 8:43 PM on January 25, 2004

effugas - try here.
posted by malpractice at 8:49 PM on January 25, 2004


Those large, light-green, smooth-skinned avocados are lower in fat and much milder in flavor than the commonly-used Hass avocados. They're usually also quite a bit cheaper. They're great if you want to make an avocado shake or other blended/baked item... though for guacamole they're usually quite lacking in flavor.

There's a pretty thorough guide to avocado varieties at this site.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:52 PM on January 25, 2004

I just bought a California Avocado that is at least twice as big as a normal one. The skin is stretched thin and taken on a light-green translucent color

I think you've got hold of a Bacon avocado there, or some other greenskin variety. (Our grocery sells 'em alongside the normal Hass ones. I don't like them as much; they're kinda bland.)

I love the fact that I can do avocado research at this time of night
posted by ook at 8:53 PM on January 25, 2004

Crash & Effu -

It may have more to do with knowability and demand than anything else. Tomatoes, apples, oranges & so forth can be either low grade (meant for saucing, juicing, or other highly processed uses) or high grade (supermarket display) uses. Pretty much all avocados go to high grade uses - so a bad guy driving by an avocado field can be sure that any avocados he can find are all worth top market value.

Plus, there is a HUGE demand for some types of produce. Go to a very poor neighborhood of recent Hispanic immigrants and the grocery stores will be brimming with an array of high quality (and often expensive) fruit and vegetables that would make a WASP yuppie's head spin ...
posted by Jos Bleau at 9:03 PM on January 25, 2004

wow, what a great little article!

at this time of year the grove roads are literally paved with guacamole from vehicles squashing fallen fruit.
posted by palegirl at 9:45 PM on January 25, 2004

I recommend using Haas Avocados too. I don't think California ones have that great flavour to them, also they feel more buttery to me.

Although Haas is supposed to be an all year avocado, I've seen it's price range from $1.25 to $3.00 at the same supermarket over the past year.
posted by riffola at 9:51 PM on January 25, 2004

Personal rant: guacamole is a waste of avocado. The fabulous Haas avocado deserves to be eaten with a spoon. I recommend a light sprinkling of Lawrey's Seasoned Salt.
posted by Goofyy at 9:58 PM on January 25, 2004

Well, I think saying "guacamole is a waste of avocado" is going a bit too far, as a well made guacamole can be sublime, but I do agree that eating a perfectly ripe avacado with a spoon is something everyone should try at least once. OK, but just one more.

And how is adding Lawrey's Seasoned Salt any different than adding tomatoes, onions, paprika, cilantro and salt? Eat it straight, wuss!
posted by botono9 at 10:21 PM on January 25, 2004

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm avocado. You guys are making me hungry. Avocados are proof of divine intervention.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:19 PM on January 25, 2004

Great article! Although reputable packing houses require documentation... she said it was not difficult to launder avocados.

Here you go, troutfishing.
posted by taz at 12:20 AM on January 26, 2004

I once cruised through the Avocado growing section of Southern California (west of Temecula) on a winter afternoon and remember seeing guys with shotguns patrolling the dirt roads. It was an enormous area that went for miles and miles with trees as far as the eye could see, and right up to the road.

Thinking back, I bet it was a pretty easy crime to just drive until no one was around, pull over and start picking. At a buck a pop, they're easy to unload, too.
posted by mathowie at 1:06 AM on January 26, 2004

There was an abandoned avocado grove near my house growing up. Walking underneath them in towards the end of the season it was sometimes a foot deep in squashed fruit.
posted by Nothing at 3:06 AM on January 26, 2004

I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 last night about avacados; didn't know that the most common/popular breed of avacado was discovered by some guy, in his back yard, and that all of the avacados of that type, throughout the world to this day, are descendants of that single tree (which has now died).
posted by Blue Stone at 5:51 AM on January 26, 2004

Avocados are good; the Avocado Jungle of Death is scary, though.
posted by TedW at 8:08 AM on January 26, 2004

Jos Bleau - Thanks for that delightfully dismal Shel Silverstein song. Something about it makes me suspect that he put it to music and played it for friends, probably on a ukelele or a banjo.

Taz - Thanks for that, although I knew that part already - It's getting the avocado from the stage where the avocado plant is about 8' tall with 5 or 6 leaves at least (and it's pressing up against the ceiling) to the stage where I'd call it a tree - instead of a weird scrawny beanstalk of a plant - that is the hard part.

Plus, I'd have to build a pretty big greenhouse to keep it in, since I live in New England. Still......unlimited avocados !

PlanetKyoto - I've got a friend who bought a rowhouse in Baltimore which had a nectarine tree in the backyard. The damn tree proved to be a champion nectariner, and it made so much fruit that it attracted nectarine hungry rats, the birds all got drunk off fermented nectarine juice, my friend's neighbors along the whole block all stopped accepting her bushels of free nectarines, and she even tried to get rid of them by having a big mixed nectarine drink party with bushels of nectarines as party favors.

They were delicious nectarines too.

Eventually she had her brother come over with a chain saw, to cut off most of the fruit-bearing limbs. That helped, for a year or two, until the tree grew some new ones.

Nothing - In my dreams, in my dreams.


FatTalk - Delicious, fatty avocados are good for you :

Saturated plant fats tend to be a much shorter chain fats than the saturated fats from animals. So the plant saturated fats tend to be much, much healthier than animal fats - in fact, some research suggests that they can confer net health benefits.

Coconut oil, for example, has been shown to not increase the cholesterol level in men, and does not even predispose them to gain weight - although it does tend to make women fat. Further, caprylic acid - byproduct of the breakdown of coconut oil - has noted antifungal properties. Some people think the world of coconut oil. Some think it can just about raise the dead

But - back to those fatty green fruits we all covet (sorry for digression, Jos) - Avocados have mostly high quality monounsaturated fat which has been shown to, at least, improve human HDL to LDL cholesterol levels:

"The Delicious — and Super Healthy — Avocado
Although the avocado has a reputation as a high-fat luxury, this power food is one we should enjoy guilt-free more often. Avocados are not only rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, this unique fruit also boasts a plethora of nutrients—all for only 153 calories in a generous half-avocado serving. And the benefits don't stop there.

Research suggests that partial replacement of complex carbohydrates with avocado in the diet of patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes favorably improved cholesterol profiles while maintaining good glycemic control.1

Another study showed that avocado-enriched diets promoted a 16% decrease of total serum cholesterol, a 22% decrease in LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and an 11% increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol2.....[ there's more, too ]"

Here's some more avocado boosterism :

"Cold pressing of avocados produces very high-quality oil with very low levels of acidity and oxidation products whilst retaining the vitamin E content.(Eyres et al 2001)

Avocado oil has very desirable qualities as a food oil, but does it bring health benefits? While there may well be constituents not yet explored, several have defined health effects. The oil is very similar to olive oil, which is a basis of the healthful Mediterranean diet, the key similarity being that Avocado oil is very rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and extremely low in saturated fat. It also contains no cholesterol."

More FatTalk (scroll down)



Goofyy - I like to eat them sliced, with fresh ground black pepper.

"Avocados are proof of divine intervention.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:19 PM PST on January 25"
- Hildegarde, not at all! (according to Blue Stone, or maybe so! - see below)

Blue Stone - It's sobering to think of how things once hung in the balance, how close we truly were to a world without Hass avocados.


The "little virgin of the avocado groves"

Somebody should build a shrine over that dead avocado primogenitor, in it's honor. If the local heathens start to worship that dead tree as a deity, then the Catholic Church will be forced to revert to it's old tricky ways to deal with the theological threat of emergent nature worship, in the form of ritualized reverence for an avocado deity.

Pope John Paul, propped up and upheld from collapse by his retinue of specially bred Papal eunuch-dwarfs, and with a jerky wave of his shaky parkinsonian hand and a croaked benediction, will canonize some dead poor little virgin girl who died whilst heroically defending her family's sole means of sustenance, an avocado tree. Or perhaps she will be the daughter - of an illegal immigrant migrant farm worker - who, during her habitual midnight sojourn into the dark, still depths of the avocado groves to pray in secret pious devotion to Christ, dies heroically defending her father's employer's avocado grove from midnight poachers by screaming loudly, despite their threats, until brutally and forever she is silenced by the fiends. She will be the patron saint of avocados, private property rights, and employee fidelity.

By papal decree, catholic avocado lovers will be urged to make a yearly pilgrimage to that first Hass avocado tree site, to honor the "little virgin of the avocado groves".

They will march there slowly, in a miles long and seemingly endless train of pilgrims and penitents, weeping and wailing their lamentations and smashing hard, unripe avocados against their foreheads in penance for all their sins. Some will flagellate themselves with unripe avocados attached to chains which will be whirled violently around - much as the medieval war-maces of old - to smash against their unprotected flesh. These flagellators will treat their wounds with a soothing guacamole paste.

Amongst this train of avocado penitents will be one or two individuals who exhibit the mysterious phenomenon of stigmata - others, wishing to be closer to those strangely bloodied individuals - moving trancelike as in a dream, their sympathetically wounded wrists upheld to the skies as they partake of Christ's agony upon the cross - will seek to gain grace as they dress those burning wounds with cooling mixtures of gaucamole and Holy Water.

The shrine to the "Little Virgin of Hass" with be officially consecrated and eventually ecompassed by a cathedral - designed by a prominent Italian modernist architect with ties to organized crime who had sought to sway public opinion about the emerging scandal of these ties by making a rather large donation to the Catholic Church - which will rise, towering, above the little avocado-saint's shrine, in the shape of an enourmous, dark blackish-green and bumpy avocado standing on end, in magnificent praise to God.

Lit within only by thousands of avocado oil lamps, the light reflecting from that jeweled, mirrored, saint-frescoed ceiling of the cathedral will play upon the praying multitudes - while the crippled and sick spring up and announce their miraculous, spontaneous cure - as the deepest and most loving grace of Christ and of his father on high.

Admission to the cathedral will require a simple genuflection and the gift of one plump and delicious healthful avocado - to be donated to charity.


Disclaimer - I am not now, nor have I ever been in the employ of the American Avocado Growers Institute, nor have I ever received financial renumeration from the California Avocado Advisory Board.

I do, however, like to eat avocados - in fat slices and generous sprinklings of freshly ground black pepper.

No salt.
posted by troutfishing at 8:40 AM on January 26, 2004

Also, here are some practical avocado tips :

To speed up the ripening of avocados, put them in a paper bag (not plastic) with a piece of ripe fruit - any ripe fruit.

To preserve a partially eaten avocado - If you've cut out a piece or even eaten most of the avocado - simply leave the pit in place ! Somehow, the presence of the pit will dramatically slow down the oxidation process.

The pit talks to the fruit, somehow, in chemical signalling.
posted by troutfishing at 11:45 AM on January 26, 2004

any ripe fruit.
But bananas (or even a banana peel) work best.
posted by ook at 12:06 PM on January 26, 2004

Texas pecan farmers have the same sort of trouble with poachers. So much so that pecan trees on government lands, which are rarely patrolled, are sprayed with an ultraviolet dye/paint, so that when harvests are taken in to be processed, if the pecans glow under a black light, they'll generally arrest whomever brought that batch in.

That's not a method your average pecan farmer has access to use, so they stick to the tried and true methods of dogs and guns. ;)

And great ripening tips guys, thanks!
posted by dejah420 at 5:04 PM on January 26, 2004

In a final follow up comment - I haven't had a daily newspaper delivered at home for years : since I got a computer (finally !) in 1999.

So, what a suprise to walk out the door yesterday morning and discover a copy of the Jan. 26 NYT, neatly protected from the snow and salt in it's pink plastic condom-like bag, lying in my driveway.

I pulled it out of the bag, and there on the front page.....

"In the dead of night come the avocado thieves..."

I won't even try to explain that one.
posted by troutfishing at 10:07 AM on January 28, 2004

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