In season: Shepard avocados return
Shepard avocados are now in season, and will be here to annoy Hass avocado lovers until April. This is a truly “green and gold” avocado variety – it’s only grown in Queensland. The second-most common variety available commercially in Australia, Shepards only account for around 10 to 15 percent of all locally grown avocados. But each year, when Shepard season rolls around, this beautifully buttery bright green fruit stirs up controversy.
Why do people hate Shepard avocados?
The amount of online vitriol directed at the poor old Shepard would make you think they were responsible for global warming, the COVID pandemic and Neighbours getting cancelled, all rolled into one harmless-looking piece of fruit. In truth, the reason could lie in the fact that Shepard avocados’ firmer flesh makes them less suitable for making smashed avo on toast. But while Hass avocados’ creamy texture and taste make them ideal for our favourite brunchtime dish, this has its downside. Hass avocados bruise easily, and the flesh quickly turns brown. Shepard avocados keep fresh in the fridge for longer, and the flesh remains green after cutting. Surely this must work in the fruit’s favour.
Another clue to widespread Shepard loathing could be found in its skin. The skin of Shepards stays a lovely bright green, even when ripe. This makes it harder to determine exactly when it’s ready to eat. Conversely, the skin of Hass avocados turns purple/black when ripe; an easily identifiable signal that it’s ready for toast-topping. So those of you who’ve had a bad Shepard experience may have just eaten the fruit too soon.
How to tell when a Shepard is ripe
Shepard avocados are ripe if the flesh gives easily when gently pressed near the stem. If it’s still firm, you’ll need to wait another day or two before it’s ready to go. If it’s hard, it needs another two or three days. But the wait is worth it. Shepard avocados have a smooth and buttery texture with a uniquely nutty flavour. While the firmer flesh is best suited to slicing, if you wait until the fruit is very ripe, you can still smash it for toast.
For those of you who stand firm in your antipathy towards the Shepard, you’ll have to be patient. Hass avocados will return in May, and will remain in season until January.
For the love of Shepard
To celebrate Shepard season, Australian Avocados has partnered with Sydney’s iconic Surry Hills cafe Cuckoo Callay for the nation’s first Shepard avocado festival, For the Love of Shepard Avocado. Cuckoo Callay has created a special menu to highlight the Shepard’s unique flavour and texture. Running from now until March 27, festival dishes include:
“You’re everything I avo wanted”: Shepard avo French toast, Shepard mascarpone, lemon meringue, lemon curd and caramelised white chocolate topped with Shepard ice cream.
“You’re the avo to my toast”: sliced Shepard, Vegemite dukkah and a slice of sourdough
“Move in the ripe direction”: sliced Shepard avocado, salmon gravlax, avocado goat cheese and pickled beetroot served on a toasted bagel.
To help Australians experiment this Shepard season, Cuckoo Callay has also shared the recipes for its festival dishes online at the Australian Avocados website.
The other avocado
While Hass and Shepard avocados are the two main varieties available in Australia, there are a range of other avocado varieties grown in Australia. These include the following.
The Lamb Hass fruit is similar to Hass but tends to be larger. They also have a more pear or oval shape, whereas the Hass has more square and flat “shoulders”. But just like Hass, the Lamb Hass avocado is also smooth and creamy and perfect for smashing.
Reed avocados are also larger than your average avo. They have a bright green skin and a round shape. Like Shepards, the flesh stays green for longer once cut.
The Wurtz tree tends to be smaller than other varieties, but produces a medium-sized, pear-shaped fruit with dark green skin. According to The Diggers Club, which sells Wurtz trees, when this variety is at its best, it’s possibly the finest tasting avo you can find.
The Fuerte is not commonly grown commercially, as its thin skin bruises easily. This means Fuertes aren’t suitable for long periods of transport or storage. But some Aussie growers do produce them, including Burnbar Fruit in northern NSW. The Fuerte’s flesh is beautifully buttery, and the fruit is slightly larger than a Hass.
This variety hails from South Africa and is suitable for growing in warmer climates. Anderson Horticulture, Australia’s largest specialty avocado nursery, hopes to trial Malumas in the Katherine region. It’s hoped the fruit will offer domestic and export opportunities for the Northern Territory. The fruit is already doing well in trials in northern Queensland.
For more on avocados, including recipes, head to australianavocados.com.au