Go green or go home: How did the avocado become the hot trend of 2018?

Written by
Shiri Katz
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Armed robberies, kidnapping farmers and a fruit that is sold at NIS 50 per kilo: how did the hipsters & Instagramers made this greasy fruit the most desired treasure around?
 
At a dance hall in Michoacán, Mexico, not far from the beaches of Acapulco, decapitated heads came flowing in - the result of violence surging after the battles between the local crime cartel and the farmers. This was not about poppy crops raised for opium or cannabis, but the level of violence created by these crops is comparable to Africa's blood diamonds. These are the avocado plantations that cause the cartel to kidnap the farmers for ransom purposes and in response to the establishment of a private security police force to protect them. A third of the world's avocado supply comes from Mexico, the New York Times reports, and this demand for the divine fruit continues to grow at a murderous pace.
 

The avocado is not a new fruit. It was cultivated in Mexico about 9,000 years ago, and the Aztecs gave it the name ahuacatl because of the way the fruit is seen growing on the tree like a pair of testicles. In the past two years, the fruit has been the undisputed star of Instagram - sliced like a rosette on toast with an obscure egg elegantly oozing on top or even creatively repurposed as a cup for a stylish cappuccino.

Avocado farm in Michoacan Mexico © Shutterstock

Since the trade agreements with Mexico introduced the avocado to the United States in 1994, the demand for the it has not stopped growing and the farmers in San Diego have not had to lower prices at any stage. On the contrary, there is even more of a growing demand of guacamole during Super Bowl season and year-round for healthy people who like avocado's natural fats, and its constant plus as a super food. In recent years, China's middle class has begun to consume avocados, which have never been part of their traditional diet. The growing demand has caused other countries in South and Central America to join in the task of growing crops, and entire forests in Mexico have been cut down to keep up with supplies for Americans and the rest of the world. The population of avocado-admirers has also grown in Europe, having increased from 170,000 tons in 2004 to 500,000 tons in the past year. 

So how does all this avocado madness affect us? Sixty percent of the green avocado species in Israel is destined for export. The space of avocado plantations in Israel has doubled in a decade from 40,000 dunams to 80,000 dunams, and the planting is still going strong.

Chirashi avocado bowl, Giraffe © Daniel Layla

The high price of the avocado in Israel has led to a wave of thefts. In May, an attempted theft of 12 tons of avocados in Nes Ammim in the western Galilee was prevented thanks to security cameras, and in Kibbutz Ga'ash thieves were caught with sacks weighing a ton and a half. As mentioned above, this is a global problem - avocado thefts have become a plague in New Zealand, and in California last year an avocado armed robbery was reported. In Israel, several varieties of avocado are grown, each of which ripens in a slightly different time, so that the season usually opens in the last third of October and continues until May, and in each point you can find two or three typical varieties.

Unlike other seasonal fruit and vegetables, the avocado has no culinary substitute, says local farmer Gideon Bielanski. "If there is no Turkish spinach, the chef will use chard, but if there is no avocado, then that's it." The shortage also causes farmers to pick the fruit too soon before the level of fat in the fruit has fully ripened, causing the depressing phenomenon known as the hard-as-a-rock avocado. "The good news is that we continue to plant avocado plantations all the time. It takes at least five years for the tree to yield, and in the early years the fruit is less of a high quality, but eating an avocado at the height of the season from a 15-year-old tree is the definition of heaven. 

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