I am not sure if you heard about the shortage and price increase for avocados this month. I am aware of it because I use avocados at work and I enjoy them at home as well. Avocados are more expensive than they ever have been. I have a friend with an avocado farm in Southern California, and I hope he has the ability to prosper from this shortage. The main cause of the shortage is twofold. The first is that there is a strike in Mexico by avocado farmers, and the second is the drought in Southern California.

Northern California has received enormous amounts of rain in recent months, with some areas getting over 400% of their normal rainfall. This has helped remove the drought conditions and restrictions in those areas. Unfortunately Southern California has not had the same good fortune. Southern California regions are averaging 65% of their normal rainfall amounts. Since avocados normally grow well in the Southern California environment, especially around the Temecula area, this has affected the crop and the harvest of all types of avocados grown in California. There are 8 types of avocados grown in California, but the most common is the Hass. Other varieties include Bacon, Fuerte, Gwen, Lamb Hass, Pinkerton, Reed and Zutano. The Hass is also the variety that is imported most frequently from Mexico, which is where the avocado originated. Central Mexico was the location where the first avocado plants were recognized.

San Diego County has long been the center of the United States avocado industry with 18,000 acres of avocado farms, but Ventura County is looking to take over that role due to cheaper water, about 1/4th the cost, and a lower salt content in the water, which avocados are sensitive to. An acre can produce approximately 16,500 pounds of avocados in a typical year.

Even though the first week of November showed an import quantity of over 40 million pounds 70% from Mexico and a domestic production of over 23 thousand pounds, we have encountered a shortage that has raised the retail price of an avocado to around $1.65 each. The price has risen about 20% since the beginning of September. Wholesale, avocados that cost $30 a case in January are running up to $80 a case now. Consumption has increased greatly in the last generation; in the 1990s per person consumption of avocados ran 1 1/2 pounds and now it is closer to 5 pounds, all while our population increased by 60 million people. The second most avocado-centric holiday or event is the Super Bowl, during which 80 million pounds of avocado are consumed. The highest consumption occurs during Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

In Mexico the strike, caused by growers complaining about the fluctuation in prices for their crop, ended in October after a short three week time period. But since then they have produced crops that were smaller in size, exporting a similar quantity of avocados, but they have not weighed the same as in previous years.

The growing process: The many different varieties have different harvest times, but the shelf life of an avocado is very long. The storage life is anywhere from two months to eight months, with the Hass variety lasting on the long side of the timeframe. The Hass variety is ripe in April while the Bacon is ripe in December. When the fruit is ripe, it is not yet ready to eat. All avocados are harvested when they are too hard to eat. All avocados require a room temperature ripening process to soften them up to an edible texture. If you buy avocados you know that some are firm and others are still solid.

Why should you eat avocados? If you ask me the number one reason is because they taste great, but I understand my taste buds are not the same as others. There are so many nutritional reasons to eat avocados. Avocados, which can weigh up to 3 pounds, are high in Vitamin K, Folate, Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E. They contain more potassium than bananas so tennis players should start eating them mid match. Although 77% of calories come from fat, it is monounsaturated fat, which is healthy fat, lowering cholesterol and triglycerides and helps reduce inflammation. Avocados can be an alternate to using butter in baked goods. Avocados also contain high amounts of fiber and help the body retain vitamins and minerals from other plant-based foods. Avocados help fight cancer and eye problems including macular degeneration, as well as arthritis, all while helping people lose weight.