in praise of Juan Murrieta

avocado, courtesy

avocado, courtesy Flickr user Muffet, licensed under Creative Commons

Despite growing up a little kid’s walk from an avocado grove, I didn’t discover their blessings until my late teens, when a college classmate from San Diego brought a car trunk load on a drive from Southern California to eastern Washington. We would lay them out on newspaper on our laps in the front seat of the car, slicing them open and sprinkling them with salt. Yum.

Carey Mcwilliam in 1949 explained the story behind California’s avocado industry:

In the early 1890’s, one Juan Murrieta of Los Angeles, imported a variety of avocado trees from Atlixco, Mexico, and from this group of seedling trees came the varieties that were first planted for commercial production. It was in Atlixco that scientists in 1911 discovered the Fuerte variety; today 85 per cent of the trees in Southern California’s 16,000 acres of avocado orchards are ofd this variety.

Juan also, I learn today via what appears to be a short essay written upon the occasion of Juan’s death, that the Spanish immigrant also is alleged to have been the first deputy sheriff of Los Angeles County. Of this claim I would remain skeptical until I saw more careful confirmation, but whatever his law enforcement credentials, for his importation of the first avocado seedlings, I remain forever in his debt.