We’re all trying to be more “green” these days. And if going green was as delicious as Chef Trey Foshee’s California Avocado filled with Halibut Ceviche, Red and Yellow Pepper, Jalapeno and Onion tossed with Coconut, Lemongrass and Cilantro Dressing (above) or as awe-inspiring as an afternoon at Rancho Santo Tomas Avocado Farm, we’d have a lot more environmentalists on our hands.
I CAN HAZ HASS?
As part of a motley crew of journalists invited to spend the afternoon at Rancho Santo Tomas, I venture onto the farm and spy mature Hass weighing down their branches. Did you know that avocados are the only fruit that doesn’t ripen on the tree?
KNOW YOUR FARMERS
We meet the farmers, Chris Ambuul and Mike Sanders (above). A father and son-in-law team, Mike persuaded Chris to quit the 9-5 and get into the grove. Chris and Mike’s daughter now live on the farm and raise their growing family. Although I didn’t see one, there has got to be a tree house somewhere.
Like many California Avocado Growers, Mike and Chris utilize water conservation by collecting rain water in a reservoir. Just one of the many reasons Rancho Santo Tomas has been a thriving farm since the 70s.
DON’T DIGITIZE THE FRUIT
As our stomachs begin to growl, Chef Trey Foshee stands at the cooking demo helm and offers tips on determining avocado ripeness and removing the pit.
Ripe avocados waiting to be halved and filled with Chef Foshee’s salad creations.
NOTHING TO BURN HERE
My demo partner, Darlene from My Burning Kitchen is all smiles and anticipation as we combine farm fresh ingredients and fill perfect avocado halves.
EPIC AVOCADO MEALTIME
Along with the Halibut Ceviche at the top of the page, we assemble Poached Chicken with Almonds, Mango and Ginger (left) and Grilled Avocado filled with Quinoa, Tomato, Cucumber, Orange, Parsley and Mint (right).
After creating and devouring the trio of salads, a family style lunch of Citrus Marinated Grilled Fish, Slow Roasted Niman Ranch Pork Shoulder and Chipotle Braised Beef Shortribs is served with tortillas and all the accoutrement necessary for building tacos. Spicy Tomatillo Salsa provides just the right kick and color.
Let the green go on… our dessert of Avocado Cheesecake with Tomato-Vanilla Jam, Avocado Twinkies and an Avocado Chocolate Truffle seals the deal. Chef Trey explains, to make the Avocado Cheesecake, use your favorite cheesecake recipe and replace half the cream cheese with avocado. Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, huh?
GET INTO THE GROVE
After our epic avocado mealtime I feel like napping but it’s time to get to work… Well, a work demo anyway.
We gather around as Mike explains all about the avocado harvesting process, which is no easy task.
Avocados must be harvested by humans. There’s no mechanical reapers around here.
Mike demonstrates the long clippers used to capture the precious fruit (left).
Avocado farms are typically maintained on steep hillsides. This protects the fruit from frost in cooler weather and it also makes the harvest even more challenging.
Donkeys, even llamas, can be used for navigating the hillside groves.
Pickers stand on tall ladders and operate the long clippers, filling bags with up to one hundred pounds of fruit at a time, before depositing their load. The harvested avocados are carefully placed in large picking bins that can each hold between 600 and 800 pounds of fruit.
UNDER OUR FEET
The grove floor is covered with a thick layer of mulch or chaparral. Because avocado trees have shallow root structures, the mulch, flecked with seedlings, (look closely) helps the tree thrive.
A GAME THE WHOLE FAMILY CAN PLAY
The Ambuul kids make a game of pulling up the avocado seedlings, trying to unearth the whole seed in a single tug.
New life springs from old stumps, sprayed white. Hass avocados are grafted to preserve their varietal characteristics rather than grown from a seed.
No shortage of firewood around here.
As we climb into the bus still full from lunch, all of us from our urban/suburban lives, I smiled. I felt history and connection, even nostalgic… for a place I’d spent just a few hours.