Avocado Collectors: The Hunt for Rare Breeds of Avocados

Food News

It's no secret we're majorly in love with avocado. But even our enthusiasm can't be matched to someone who travels to the far corners of the earth in search of rare avocado breeds.

A recent article in Slate highlights the work of Richard Campbell, a rare fruit collector for the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida. On a series of expeditions to Central America and the Caribbean between 2002 and 2008 (particularly the region bordered by Hispaniola, Panama, and southern Mexico, which is the birthplace of the wild West Indian avocado), Campbell collected over 200 varieties of avocados, and he believes that thousands more exist in the coastal areas south of the Bahamas. These rare native avocado varieties are "especially valuable to geneticists seeking to preserve and study rare plants," thus the hunt for the next undiscovered avocado type.

When Campbell is on an avocado hunting mission, he'll browse outdoor markets in search of avocados with arresting physical features. "We basically want trees that have unusual fruit--whether long, big, purple-skinned, without a seed, whatever," he tells Slate. It also seems they've found a few "knockouts" in their travels:

There is one they found in a backyard garden in Rivas, Nicaragua called the Pura Vida. The Pura Vida bears gourd-shaped fruits averaging 18 inches in length, with some growing as long as 3 feet. Then there's the Juan Jose, an avocado Campbell and Ledesma found growing on a tree in Costa Rica and whose fruits contain no seed at all--just light, creamy flesh within a soft, green skin. Campbell and Ledesma dubbed another the "car wash avocado" after the rural outpost where they found the tree growing in Guatemala. Similarly, there are two "truck stop avocados," each collected from a roadside truckers' café in Guatemala.

For more on the art of avocado hunting, check out the full article at Slate.

→ Read more: Fruit Hunters | Slate

Related: 30 Reasons to Buy an Avocado Tonight: Tips, Hints, Recipes

(Image: Richard Campbell for Slate)

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