Like many foodies who’ve seen trends come and go (New Coke, anyone?) I subscribe to the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But, in our increasingly warmer and monocultural world, often the thing that is broken is the environment in which food grows. The fix for the environment is long-term and politically fraught, so in the short term we “fix” it by modifying the food to grow under new conditions. And that’s what’s happening with the precious Hass avocado, that creamy toast topper and maki-filler that is fated to be native to the southern U.S. and Mexico, a particularly climatically fraught part of the world.
The Hass is the current industry leader, but it’s susceptible to sunburn, and the large trees it grows on mean lower yields, as well as greater fall risks for pickers. Horticulturist Mary Lu Arpaia and research associate Eric Focht began developing a new, sun-resistant, smaller-treed variety over a decade ago, and are now tantalizingly close to market. Dubbed the Luna, Arpaia, and Focht consider the literal fruit of their labour the “great-granddaughter of the Hass,” which shares her ancestor’s creamy, sweet nuttiness. Quite a few foodies folks are looking forward to using them!
“Diego Galicia and Rico Torres, chef-owners of Mixtli in San Antonio, source their avocados from Mexico, the world’s largest grower and exporter of the fruit. Galicia grew up on a farm in the country and is familiar with the process of growing avocado trees, which can take fifteen to twenty years to bear fruit. When you throw in the cost of labor and stress on the crop brought by higher temperatures due to climate change, the price tag that you see at your local grocery store starts to make sense. During the off-season or low-production months, avocados are transported from other South American countries. Ideally, chefs like Galicia and Torres, who aim to source produce sustainably, hope to avoid the additional costs and fossil fuel emissions brought by importing.”
While still about two years out from its debut, the Luna already shows promise as an improvement of the Hass, which is faltering under human intervention and demand. And, as the discourse over avocado toast and home ownership has shown us in the past couple years—the short-term joy brought by avocados in our lives can be worth it in the face of insurmountable stressors. I say, the more guacamole, the merrier!