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Avocados may be the coolest, newest thing to smash up on toast and overcharge for, but they’ve been around much longer than trendy brunch menus.
And at the start of it all for this superfood was the Fuerte Avocado.
Fuerte Avocados: A Brief History
In fact, many people consider the Fuerte to be the original avocado king.
That’s because this cultivar used to reign over the market, with nearly every avocado grown in California—and, therefore, America—coming from this type of tree. But, as with many other marketing tricks, that may have been due to some unbalance in supply and demand.
Though avocados have been grown in Central and South America since at least 750 B.C., the fruit didn’t cross over into United States territory until around the 1800s. The first state to land this green gold was, naturally, California, and for a while in the late 19th Century, avocados represented a small but stable crop for Southern California farmers.
Then came the frost of 1913, which wiped out nearly every type of avocado grown in the normally mild-mannered climate. The famously sun-worshipping fruits couldn’t quite live up to the cold—except for one type: The Fuerte.
So impressed was the industry at this little fruit’s willpower that they gave it the name fuerte – Spanish for “strong.” And the cultivar quickly took over, accounting for more than two-thirds of the avocados grown in California.
It wasn’t until the 1970s, when markets further east started gaining an appetite for the creamy green plant, that the Fuerte saw its fortunes fall. And that small slip-up left just enough room for a new competitor to edge on in.
Fuerte Vs. Haas Avocados
We’re talking, of course, about the famous Haas avocado, which has handily taken over the Fuerte’s spot at the top. And once again, that power play was thanks in no small part to marketing.
The Fuerte avocado is a “Type B” avocado—a marker indicative of the type of tree it sprouts from, which often leads to fruits bearing beautiful green skin. Indeed, the Fuerte is known—and was once praised for—its lovely green complexion. But this color easily betrays any bumps, which leave their mark as unsightly bruises. And as demand for avocados stretched ever-wider, customers on the other side of the shipping divide were turned off by these imperfections.
Enter the Haas, a humble avocado that got its start in Southern California around the 1920s.
Haas avocados are a “Type A,” which means they turn out with much thicker and darker skin. And for years, that genetic tic was seen as a turn-off, with customers scoffing at the nearly-black ripe examples.
Yet, both qualities translated better than well when it came to increasing shipping demands, and the ugly duckling Haas grew into the beautiful swan, dominating the expanding avocado market and eventually surpassing its Strong competitor.
Today, the Haas is responsible for more than 80% of the entire avocado market, and more than 95% of the avocados grown in California. In fact, in 2020 alone, Americans consumed more than 2 billion pounds of the stuff.
But it’s not just what’s on the outside that sets these two avocados apart.
The Haas’ Type A background also gives it a richer source of oil, which typically leads to a creamier flesh, and the distinct nutty flavor that has become so coveted in the fruit.
That’s not to say the Fuerte is without its advantages. Indeed, the fruits are typically much larger than the Haas, and many people prefer their more delicate flesh. Though, it’s admittedly difficult to track down any type of non-Haas variety outside California.
What Are Fuerte Avocados Used For?
Just because they’re more rare doesn’t mean they’re unusable. In fact, Fuerte avocados can easily sub in for nearly any situation that calls for a Haas.
Like all avocados, Fuertes are best used raw, since the tannins in the fruit reveal an awfully bitter taste when exposed to too much heat. But bearing that in mind, the fruit’s flesh can easily carry any number of flavors, from sweet to savory to spicy, and Fuerte’s have long been used in traditional Mexican cooking.
Aside from eating, Fuertes can be enjoyed as a drink – tossed in with fruit or coconut water to make a delicious smoothie. And that’s to say nothing of the fruit’s many nutritional values, with the Fuerte, like most types of avocado, registering high in healthy fats, fiber, and vitamin K.
It may no longer be the King of Avocados, but there’s no doubt that the Fuerte avocado is still strong enough to muscle out so many lesser foods.