Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How a letter carrier created the modern avocado

Photo by Ron, used by permission

A Letter carrier is namesake behind the avocados of the world

Go to any produce section and pick up an avocado. More than likely, you’ll be holding a Hass avocado, which accounts for 80 percent of all avocados produced commercially around the world.

This particular avocado was created by a letter carrier, Rudolph Hass of La Habra Heights, CA.

Rudolph Hass with his wife, Elizabeth
In 1922 Hass saw a magazine article illustrating an avocado tree with dollar bills hanging from its branches. The idea of making money from fruit was intriguing, especially since he was making just 25 cents an hour.

On his route, one of Hass’ customers was known for growing many different types of plants and trees and was experimenting with growing avocados. Hass purchased a few seed pits from him and planted them on his own property with an eye on the future.

As the seeds sprouted and grew into trees, he grafted cuttings from existing trees into the seedlings. After several years of failed grafts and experimentations, one of the young trees began producing avocados that were markedly different. They were luscious, large, and had a dark, pebbly skin unlike avocados previously grown, The flavor and texture were much richer, as well.

In 1935, Hass received a patent for his tree. As word spread of this new fruit variety, other growers began to buy bud wood from Rudolf to graft trees in their groves.

A whole new produce industry was created from this one parent tree and today, with sales of more than $1 billion in the U.S. alone, the Hass variety dominates the world of avocados.

There’s a plaque on that property commemorating the location and birth of the modern avocado, thanks to a letter carrier with a little creativity.

La Habra Heights, CA, Letter Carrier Bianca Gonzalez holds a Hass avocado.
She’s at the site where the first tree was grafted by Letter Carrier Rudolph Hass.

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