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The Whitsell avocado is a hybrid variety that is small, averaging just six ounces, and pear-shaped with rough, thick yet pliable dark-green skin. It has russet speckles on the blossom end that become more distinct as the fruit matures. Its creamy flesh houses a relatively small seed, and is yellowish-green in color with good flavor, though slightly less nutty than other varieties. The dense, evergreen Whitsell avocado tree is semi-dwarf, growing to an average of twelve feet high, which reduces picking costs and lessens the chance of wind damage. It often has irregular growth in its branches, giving the tree a fairly distinctive outline among avocado varieties. Like the hass avocado, Whitsell bears in alternate years, and is said to be moderately vigorous. It is often recommended for growing in containers and greenhouse because it is not a hardy cultivar.
Whitsell avocados are available midwinter into fall.
Whitsell avocados belong to the Lauraceae, commonly known as laurel, family, which includes camphor, cinnamon, sassafras, and the California laurel. Avocados are botanically classified as a berry, and are scientifically named Persea americana. Although several plants contain flowers with both male and female organs, the avocado is unique in that its flowers open as female one day, close and reopen as male the next day. Each avocado cultivar is further classified as type A or type B, depending on its flowers’ opening times. The Whitsell avocado is categorized as flowering type B, making it a great pollinator for the popular type A commercial cultivars, such as hass. Though self-pollination can occur, many orchards will plant two different avocado varieties, one type A and one type B, to facilitate cross-pollination and increase crop volume.
Whitsell avocados, like other varieties, are known for their high fat content, which is why avocados earned the nickname, "poor man's butter". Avocados are second only to olives among fruits in oil content, but the oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and is actually relatively healthy. Avocados contain several essential nutrients, such as potassium, fiber, B-vitamins, Vitamin E, and folic acid, and they also enable the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients from foods that are eaten alongside the fruit.
Whitsell avocados are great for eating raw, and can simply be cut in half and drizzled with olive oil, vinaigrette, or lemon juice, and topped with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Avocados are the main ingredient in guacamole, one of the most popular dishes of Mexico, which is made by pureeing avocado with chilies, onions, lime juice, spices and more, depending on the particular recipe. Whitsell avocados are also great in sandwiches and salads, and they can even be used to top soups. Whitsell avocados should be stored at room temperature, and will last two or three days once ripe. Refrigerate only fully ripe avocados to slow the process of decay. Once cut, you can preserve the flesh’s color by brushing the exposed surfaces with lemon juice or milk. Cover cut avocados with plastic wrap to seal out exposure to air and refrigerate.
Though the first planting of avocados in California likely occurred as early as 1850, it is recorded that Judge R. B. Ord planted three seedling avocado trees from Mexico in Santa Barbara, California in 1871. This is generally considered to be the foundation of the avocado industry in California. Today, California is the leading producer of domestic avocados, like the Whitsell avocado. It is home to at least ninety percent of avocado crop in the United States, with sixty percent of all California avocados being grown in San Diego County, which is often acknowledged as the avocado capital of the nation.
The Whitsell avocado is a patented variety that was developed by and named after Robert Whitsell of the University of California, Riverside and South Coast Field Station facilities in 1982. Whitsell avocados are hardy to 30°F, and like most avocados are recommended for the mild-winter areas of California, Florida and Hawaii. However, like several other type B cultivars, Whitsell avocados are considered somewhat inferior for growing and are highly recommended for containers and greenhouses.