In season: avocado

In the metro Atlanta area, we have pick-your-own options for just about everything: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, muscadines, figs, peaches, pumpkins, pecans and vegetables of all sorts. But if you want to pick-your-own avocados, you have to travel farther. All the way to Fort Ogden, Fla., in DeSoto County, about midway between Lake Okeechobee and the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. That’s about as far north as avocados will grow in Florida. July and August are peak avocado season.

There in Fort Ogden, Walter Frederich offers pick-your-own avocados, along with blueberries and peaches. Frederich grows ‘Brogdon’ avocados, the most cold-hardy avocado variety, tolerant of temperatures down to 19 degrees, he said.

“I was born in Miami, where avocados are everywhere. Everybody has them. Wherever I live, I’m always planting – avocados, tomatoes, whatever. I’m never going to starve to death,” said Frederich.

About 12 years ago, he planted two trees. “Those trees are loaded with fruit right now, so much fruit that two limbs broke off. There are a couple hundred avocados out there,” he said.

The season for avocados is now, and it’s short. The Brogdon makes it easy to know when the fruit is ready to be picked. The bright green skin turns a purple-black. “When they turn black, some will start falling, so we try to get people out to pick them right away. We’ve got about three weeks for harvesting. Once they’re picked, they have to be eaten in two to three days,” he said. He sells the Brogdons for about 50 cents each.

There are three types of avocados: West Indian, Mexican and Guatemalan. West Indian avocados are the largest with a smooth green skin. Those are the ones most often sold in the grocery store as “Florida avocados.” Mexican avocados are smaller with purple or black skins, and Guatemalan avocados have rough green-black skins. The Hass avocado is a Guatemalan variety.

The difference in types makes a difference in the creaminess and richness of the flesh. Many people prefer the West Indian avocado for recipes that call for chunks or slices of avocado and the Mexican and Guatemalan avocados for pureed dishes like guacamole.

For those of us who have grown an avocado “tree” by suspending the pit in a container of water, Frederich offers a bit of advice. “The avocado you grow won’t come true from its parents. So, if you’re looking for fruit, that’s not the best way. Avocados are generally grown as grafts, with the preferred variety grafted onto a rootstock,” he said.

That homegrown tree is also not likely to yield much fruit. Avocados have a complicated sex life with two flowering types called “A” and “B.” On “A” trees, flowers will open as female one morning, and close by afternoon. Then the next day, that same flower opens in the afternoon as a male. On “B” trees, the flowers open as female in the afternoon, close and then reopen as males in the morning. Since it takes both male and female flowers open at the same time to achieve pollination, that one little avocado tree doesn’t stand much chance of developing fruit.

Who knows? Given our warmer and warmer winters, maybe a local farmer with experiment with an avocado grove and pick-you-own avocados will be available in the greater Atlanta area soon.

At local farmers markets

Cooking demos:

4-8 p.m. Thursday, August 1. Chef Seth Freedman of Forage and Flame offers demos throughout the market. East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.farmeav.com

9 a.m. Saturday, August 3. Chef Drew Van Leuvan of Seven Lamps, working with pasta. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.morningsidemarket.com

10 a.m. Saturday, August 3. Chef Hilary White of The Hil. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.peachtreeroadfarmersmarket.com

For sale

Vegetables, fruit and nuts: acorn squash, arugula, Asian greens, Asian pears, beets, blackberries, blueberries, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, collards, corn, cucumbers, dandelion, eggplant, fennel, figs, garlic, green beans, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, Malabar spinach, melons, mushrooms, Okinawa spinach, okra, onions, pecans, peaches, pears, peppers, potatoes, radishes, sorrel, spaghetti squash, spinach, spring onions, squash blossoms, summer squash, sweet potato greens, tomatoes, turnips

From local reports

Alma Cocina’s Sea Bass Ceviche

Hands on: 15 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4

Serve the ceviche with tortilla chips if you like. The restaurant garnishes their ceviche with microgreens and serves the ceviche in clear glass cups to show off the colors of the dish.

1/2 pound white sea bass, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3/4 cup lime juice plus 2 tablespoons, divided

1 cup 1/4-inch diced Roma tomatoes

1/4 cup 1/4-inch diced red onion

2 Serrano peppers, finely diced with seeds

1/4 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Salt

2 Haas avocados

1 lime

In a small bowl, combine bass with 3/4 cup lime juice. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. The fish will firm up slightly.

While bass is marinating, make pico de gallo by combining in a medium bowl the tomatoes, onion, peppers, cilantro and remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice. Season to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, make avocado mousse by combining avocado flesh and juice of one lime in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Season to taste.

Divide avocado mousse between four serving dishes. Drain fish and discard lime juice. Toss fish and pico de gallo together and divide between martini glasses. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 251 calories (percent of calories from fat, 56), 14 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 17 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 23 milligrams cholesterol, 58 milligrams sodium.