Where to seek 200-plus varieties of avocados on Hawaii Island
From pear-shaped to perfectly round and every shape in between, avocados may have been introduced to the region as early as 1794.
The creamy green avocado is a staple of tropical eating, but did you know Hawaii Island harbors over 200 varieties of guacamole’s star ingredient? From pear-shaped to perfectly round and every shape in-between, avocados may have been introduced to the region by in-the-know visitors as early as 1794.
Farmers’ markets from Hilo to Kona have more than the common Hass variety—specimens of the nutrient-dense superfoods bear unusual names like “Mr. T,” “Aztec,” and even “Bacon” (more on that in a minute). Kona’s coffee belt—where the volcanoes Hualalai and Mauna Loa block trade winds, and elevation and rainfall conditions seem to be perfect for the Central American superfood—is the most prolific avocado-producing region in the state. Here, errant seeds washed alongside mauka roadways have grown into giant wild “butter pears,” many just as tasty as their domesticated brethren.
At Greenwell Farms, one of Kona’s oldest coffee producers, more than a dozen avocado trees tower above its primary crop. The farm’s most interesting varietal? The Bacon. Perfectly egg shaped with a creamy center not dissimilar in color to a cooked egg yolk, the Bacon avocado is rumored to be the perfect flavor combo of—you guessed it, avocadoes and America’s favorite cured meat.
However, the truth of the Bacon may be far less exciting. It was purportedly named for one Mr. James Bacon who hybridized it in the 1950s. Indeed, many varietals, including many of the unique-to-Hawaii varietals are named after founding farmers. Still, visitors and Greenwell Farm workers claim a savory but undeniable trace of bacon. When I visited the farm seeking the avocado earlier this week, the last ripe Bacon had unfortunately just fallen … and so the legend lives on.
For many of the more popular Hawaii Island avocado varietals, the winter season is just coming to a close. But, thanks to year-round tropical conditions, it’s possible to find other varieties of avocado trees bearing fruit in Hawaii in spring, summer and fall too.
For more on Kona’s avocados, check out this fact-sheet from University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Greenwell Farms offers daily tours departing on the half hour between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.