Avocados are far and away one of the most popular fruits in the United States, with Americans eating more than 2 billion—that’s, with a “b”—pounds of the stuff in 2020 alone.
But even within that giant distinction, the Haas avocado looms large.
This varietal is the most popular of the popular, cornering a hefty 95% of the American avocado market. So when you reach for the guac or order your favorite brunchy toast, odds are you can thank a Haas for the deliciousness that follows.
But despite its domination of all things green and creamy, this little fruit almost never hit the market at all.
Where Do Haas Avocados Come From?
Haas avocados have the unusual distinction of descending from a singular tree. And that’s especially rare for a fruit that, in ancient Aztec culture, stood in as a symbol for love, as avocados need a partner plant in order to sprout.
The Mother Tree, as its come to be called, planted her roots in the Southern California town of La Habra Heights, on a farm owned not by a well-heeled horticulturalist but a postman working in the area.
As the story goes, she almost didn’t make it. A few seasons of fruitless yields passed, and the tree’s owner thought his land might be better used for other plants. But, with clippers in hand, he was assured by a professional gardener that the tree was, in fact, plenty healthy—if a bit young yet. So she was left to flower, eventually producing the strange fruit we know and love today.
And after a rocky start, the Haas Mother Tree went on to live a long and fruitful life, producing any number of seedlings that were used to make subsequent batches of Haas avocados and, eventually, spreading seeds as far as Florida and nearly everywhere in-between. She sadly succumbed to root rot at the ripe age of 76, and her then-owner used some wood to make jewelry and other keepsakes out of her sacred bark.
Why Is It Called A Haas Avocado?
As Juliet Capulet so famously asked her Romeo, “What’s in a name?”
When it comes to the Haas avocado, the answer is pretty simple: the Haas is named after the brave postman in Southern California who first took a chance on the new kind of tree.
Amateur gardener Rudolph Haas started what would become a superfood revolution in 1926, when he purchased a handful of questionable seeds from local seller A. R. Rideout. At the time, the distributor was known to gather seeds from any number of seemingly random sources, including the garbage cans outside of restaurants. And some believe that this strange start is to thank for the cross-cultivation that resulted in the unique Haas varietal.
Regardless of its origins, Haas himself wasn’t sure of the tree’s possibilities, even after it began sprouting fruit. The cultivars were smaller than usual, bumpy, lumpy and an unappealing black. But his children loved the taste of the stuff, so he kept it around.
Eventually, Haas became so smitten with his new crop, he began selling some to his colleagues at the post office. And word spread from there: A new type of avocado was in town. And it was good.
What Is Different About the Haas Avocado?
Aside from its admirably strong family tree, the Haas avocado has a number of stand-out qualities that have aided its rise in fame.
Firstly, the tree itself is distinctive for its high fruit yield, and its ability to flower all year long, which stood in stark contrast to other varietals, including the Mexican-based Fuerte, which was the reigning avocado king at the time.
Haas avocados are also notable for their higher oil levels, which work in a number of favorable ways. When it comes to taste, this benefit is particularly noticeable, giving the avocado a creamier texture than many other varieties, and the warm, nutty-to-buttery taste the fruit is now largely associated with. But this trait also comes in handy commercially, giving Haas avocados a much longer shelf-life than many of its alligator pear cousins.
What Are Haas Avocados Good For?
Perhaps a better question is what aren’t Haas avocados good for.
The creamy, dreamy green flesh of the fruit makes the perfect carrier vessel for any number of flavors, from lime and cilantro to hot sauce and spice. Haas avocado flesh has even been mixed with chocolate to make imitation mousse for the healthy dessert-minded.
But these fruits make more than just our taste buds happy.
Like many of their avocado brethren, Haas avocados are wonderful sources of monounsaturated fat (read: the good kind), as well as the rare-but-important vitamin K and more potassium than the average banana. Add that to their high-fiber, low-cholesterol molecular makeup, and you get something that’s just as good for you as it is good to eat.
The Haas avocado may have been a historical dark horse when it comes to avocado varieties, but this scrappy little cultivar has truly earned its place at the top of the heap.