Ark of Taste
The Puebla avocado is a small, compact fruit resembling somewhat in appearance its better-known cousin, the Hass. The Puebla, however, has beautiful onyx black skin, which is much thinner and smoother than other commercially grown varieties. Once peeled away, the fruit reveals a striking pale green flesh, which darkens progressively toward the rim. The hardy growing trees hit their peak season from December to February in southern California.
The Puebla avocado boasts a smooth, velvety flesh with a nutty, clean aroma and a butter-rich mouthfeel. Tasters rave about the fruit’s “full-bodied, succulent” flavor, noting that it leaves a “ripe, lingering sweetness on the tongue.” It’s creamy enough to eat with a spoon but still firm, with a more earthy, woodsy taste than many commercial varieties.
The history of the California avocado goes back to Puebla, a city eighty 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 back to the States. Many buds refused to adapt to the soil and climate of California; but one, which Schmidt had cut from a tree in Alejandro Le Blanc’s garden in Atlixco, flourished. When the tree survived the great freeze of 1913, its strength was officially recognized and it was given the name “Fuerte,” Spanish for “vigorous and strong.” The Fuerte tree that Schmidt found in Atlixco jump-started California’s avocado industry.
Thanks to its hardy nature, the fruit grew successfully in the San Diego region. The delicious Puebla variety became quite popular and was grown widely for local consumption. But with the commercialization of avocado production, the thin-skinned Puebla was overlooked in favor of the thick-skinned Hass, which handled better in traveling to distant markets. Many of the trees in production were cut down and replaced with commercial varieties. There are few trees left in San Diego County, some having burned in the recent wild fires of southern California. According to Dennis Sharmahd, one of the few remaining Puebla producers, there are only 10 trees left in San Diego County. Dennis is hopeful that next year, trees might be available for sale.