“Fill the boot!” Heading back after a long weekend staying with friends at Tea Tree Orchard, Rangiuru the car boot was laden with avocados and other produce. Family, friends and fellow foodies were lucky recipients of fallen bounty – little did we know the avocado famine would be over so quickly!
Wintry weather played havoc with this year’s avocado harvest. Fallen fruit littered orchard floors with the picking season still a few weeks away (mid-late August onwards). Orchardists waited patiently for moisture tests to confirm their crop was ready to be picked, and prayed the weather would be kinder too.
Friends at Tea Tree Orchard, Rangiuru last week handpicked their first crop since purchasing the seven acre property in late 2015. Trays and trays, 2600kgs of bright green shiny avocados – that’s a whopping 13,000 (approx) avocados – were delivered to the wholesale distributor. Graded and combined with crops from other small producers into a pool, growers receive a percentage of the take, based on the volume supplied. The avocados are then on-sold and distributed to retailers, ready for consumers to purchase.
Grown all year round, Hass is the main avocado variety produced in New Zealand. Exported from late August through until the end of March, they are in plentiful supply for the local market over summer too. Avocados are unique in that while they are harvested mature (9-12 months), they don’t ripen while attached to the tree. Rarely do you see long stalks on the avocados in retail shops. Once picked for the domestic market and de-stalked, the avocados take 8- 10 days to ripen, ensuring they are perfect to eat when you purchase them.
With their avocado trees needing a significant prune – cut back by a third to half their height – Tracey and Martin have made a call to sacrifice next year’s crop to maximise growth in future seasons, and pruning was underway as soon as the pick was over.
So while last month even die-hard avocado fans struggled to justify the cost of a single avocado; today avocados are back in abundance – even if they do look a little worse for wear. Enjoy them while you can as next year’s crop will be smaller, with 2018 forecast to be another bumper year.