Ark of Taste
Persea americana var. drymifolia x P. nubigena var. guatamalensis
The Fuerte avocado is a medium to large fruit with an elongated pyriform (pear) shape ranging from around five to sixteen ounces. Its skin is smooth, easy to peel and its flesh is thick, yellow and 18% oil. Its flavor is rich and creamy with notes of hazelnut and a lemony, grassy finish.
With the commercialization of avocado production, this formerly leading market variety was displaced by the thick-skinned Haas, which handles better in shipping to distant markets. Of the almost 500 varieties of avocado, only seven are grown commercially in California, and of these seven, Haas comprises around 95% of the crop. Fuerte is considered by avocado growers and connoisseurs to be one of the best tasting commercial cultivates, and it deserves to be more widely grown and known.
The history of the California avocado goes back to Puebla, a city 80 miles from the Mexican capital. In 1911, a 21-year-old American named Carl Schmidt traveled to Mexico City, Puebla, and Atlixco. Schmidt, employed by the West Indian Nursery in Altadena, California, was tasked to search the Mexican marketplace for avocados of outstanding quality and to locate the trees from which they came. He cut budwood from the best trees, numbered each, and shipped them by Wells Fargo to Altadena, California. Many buds refused to adapt to the soil and climate of California; but number 15, which Schmidt had cut from a tree in the dooryard garden of Alejandro Le Blanc, flourished. When it survived the great freeze of 1913, its strength was officially recognized and it was given the name Fuerte (the Spanish word for “strong”). The Fuerte tree that Schmidt found in Atlixco created California’s avocado industry.
The Fuerte avocado performs best in a specific climatic zone, away from the immediate coast but also outside of the hotter interior valleys. The primary area of production is from San Diego to Ventura County, California. The main harvest season in Southern California is December to February.