What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: New Surprise Avocado + Mea Culpa
The springtime race to keep up with everything that's coming in season has only just begun, and we've already come out of the gate missing one of the most interesting avocados (not an oxymoron) of the season. You probably will not find this one at local markets until next season, assuming Joe Avitua at Walker Farms is correct, but its taste, color and pit (yes, even the pit) had us thudding our heads against a wall, mea culpa-style. We also love its completely non-ironic name -- the Surprise avocado -- and hope to catch it in prime glory next time around.
Felicia Friesema Surprise avocados at the Pasadena market
Avocado lovers be warned: The Surprise will replace your everlovin' Haas, Fuertes and even the super creamy and luscious Reed as tops on your list.
The Surprise is a new cross between a Haas and a Zutano. It's picked green while the skin is still rough and pebbly like a Haas, then it slowly ripens to an inky dark black while the peel turns silky smooth and nearly paper-thin. And here's the surprise -- the peel is edible. We looked sideways at Avitua when he handed us a slice, telling us to eat it whole. The skin gives as easily as the heavy and creamy flesh, adding a very slight earthiness and a mild texture contrast.
"You know what they remind me of," Avitua said. "The Mexicola. You know, they're really small but with edible skin. I just eat these straight and whole with a little salt and pepper."
Here's the other surprise: Most of the Surprise avocados weigh in at nearly two pounds. And you'd think that the bulk of that weight would go to a giant pit within, but it doesn't. The belly of the pear-shaped berry (yes, it's technically a berry) holds a seed the size of a large marble.
So it's big, it has a small pit and the skin is edible. You can also taste the richness of the Haas parentage without feeling like you've downed a spoonful of avocado oil. Unlike the Zutano, it has no fibers or grit. Just kefir-soft flesh the color of cultured butter.
Avitua has only 18 trees of the Surprise at Walker Farms; he expects to be planting a few more in the coming year.
"That first week they were out, no one knew about them," Avitua recalled. "The second week, people came back. By the third, people were in love. We'll have these again and again. For sure." Walker Farms' tables can be found at the Pasadena, Glendale, Temple City, Long Beach, Duarte and Alhambra markets. Avitua says he might have a few crates at this week's markets, but we'll likely have to wait until next season. Look for them starting in February. We will.
Felicia Friesema is a Master Food Preserver with the UC Cooperative Extension and Co-Leader of Slow Food USA's Los Angeles chapter. You can follow her on Twitter at @FeliciaFriesema.