Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mango Guacamole and my day with California Avocados

Avocados... from blossom to table
The avocado... it seems like such a simple thing and actually it is.  Creamy flesh with that big pit, versatile in every way and simply perfect to slice into salads, mash into guacamole or dice on top of pizza (really, it's awesome).  Whatever you do with your nutrient-packed California Avocado, know that getting that green globe from blossom to that store shelf is quite a process.

West Pak | Temecula
With an invitation from the California Avocado Commission I was lucky enough to participate in a blogger educational tour giving me an inside peek at the packing, growing and using of our cherished avos.

Beginning the day at the West Pak packing plant in Temecula, I followed avocados from truck through packaging... and I had NO idea how much technology and work went into moving that little fruit through the plant and into the grocery store so it can be used in my kitchen.

Beginning in a humble bin, hard avocados are dumped into the system where they are tracked as they are tested for ripeness, color and size, sorted into like kind by machine, sorted again for quality by hand, and then sent for packing where even more people and machines work together to place the avocados into boxes or bags for market.  All the while, the avocado is tracked and monitored.  In a master control room growers can actually watch their fruits online as they move through the system while gaining insight on quality control.

Hand packers have boxes of avocados set for sale in no time, and I have to admit to being utterly amazed at the speed some of these packers use to pack their boxes.  Once boxed or bagged, the avocados are moved to chilly holding areas where they await a ride to their next destination and finally, on to your kitchen.

Accompanied by representatives from the California Avocado Commission, our group made its way to the next stop on the tour, and here I can't thank Bill and Carol Steed enough for opening up their hearts as well as their home to us for a spectacular lunch, featuring California Avocados, of course.

Avocado Appetizers - Gazpach (front) Avocado Bread (back)
Chef Adrian Halmagean and his staff from Sorrel Bistro & Restaurant prepared an unexpected and extremely appreciated meal for us food bloggers while featuring California Avocados in each course.  Beginning with appetizers, fresh Raspberry Iced Tea and chilled Meyer Lemonade, the Sorrel staff passed snacks including my favorite, Avocado Bread topped with hummus, tomatoes, more avocado and chopped scallions.  Shrimp skewers and a decadent gazpacho rounded out the pre-meal delights which were enjoyed as we took in the breathtaking vistas from the Steeds back "yard".

Bill & Carol Steed of Fairfield Farms
Surrounded by fruiting blueberry bushes looking over groves of oranges and avocados, the sun and light breezes brought an afternoon of pure pleasure.  Mr. and Mrs. Steed took the time to speak about farming and what it takes to bring the fruits to market.  Their passion for the industry is obvious, and they are a true benefit to the California Avocado Industry.

Lunch included an entree of Wild Salmon topped with a California Avocado Corn Tapenade.  Sides of Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Cilantro, a Watermelon salad with even more California Avocados and a light Green Salad rounded out our delicious lunch.

Chuckling to myself as my plate was placed in front of me, I enjoyed (and participated) in the obligatory photographing of the food.  Cameras appeared immediately as everyone got their shot of this spectacular meal.

Last but not least, Chef Adrian arrived with trays of green frozen yogurt... no less than a creamy and decadent Vanilla Bean Avocado Frozen Yogurt concoction topped with berries and a sprinkle of granola.  Now, I'm an admitted avocado girl through and through, but the thought of avo ice cream just didn't seem right.  Not a big fan of ice cream in the first place, I truly didn't expect to love the dessert, but how wrong I was.  Creamy, flavorful and positively scrumptious, I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of this recipe to my inbox, and with permission, I'm hoping to share this one soon.

Vanilla Bean Avocado Frozen Yogurt... Fabulous!
Satiated and perfectly content, our group moved on to a farm wagon ride taking us through the Steed's farm.  Accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Steed, their love of the land poured out as they talked about their farm.  Being somewhat newbies to the avocado growing industry, the couple purchased the land some 11 years ago after delivering an offer that couldn't be refused to the prior owner.  Turning the land organic has been only one of the projects the couple has welcomed over the years and, their passion for the beloved California Avocado is somewhat contagious.

Clockwise from upper left:  Smiling farm tour driver.  Tour guests including Fairfield Farm Manager, Sherry & Mike of Menu in Progress, Lisa of The Gonzo Gourmet, Fairfield Farm owner Carol Steed.  
Traveling through groves of blooming orange trees and hives of the ever important bees, we made our way to the also blooming avocado trees where I received a lesson in growing from the endearing Chairman of the California Avocado Commission, Mr. Ed McFadden.  Mr. McFadden patiently took me through bloom to harvest of the avocados while throwing in a few growing tips that just may have a personal avocado tree growing in my yard soon.

Bee hives - vital for pollination
Did you know:
  • March through September mark the peak of the 2012 California avocado season.
  • California produces 90% of the nation's avocado crop.
  • California avocados are grown on some 5,000 small family farms throughout Central and Southern California.
  •  Avocados are harvested by hand with the help of special shears called clippers. Using ladders up to 30 feet high and poles up to 14 feet long to reach the fruit in tall trees, pickers place the harvested fruit in large nylon bags fastened around their shoulders. Each bag holds 30-50 pounds of fruit.
  • 95% of the total crop is the cherished Haas avocado.
  • Nutrient dense avocados act as a "nutrient booster" by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients.
  • Avocados contain Lutein, a natural antioxidant concentrated in the Macula of the eye and research suggest may help maintain healthy eyesight as we age.  On a personal note, my father suffers from macular degeneration and his doctor recommends lutein-rich foods.
*** Information provided by the California Avocado Commission

Fairfield Farms, Temecula... a little slice of heaven.
Leaving the Steed's beautiful ranch I settled back and reflected on my fabulous day.  From the packing plant to remarkable lunch to the final ranch tour, I'm thankful to have been invited to participate in this informative and exceptionally fun event.  With my head filled with avocado lore and a cocktail party only hours away, I couldn't help but come home and prepare one of our favorite avocado recipes to bring along for the evening.

A simple recipe of nutrient-rich avos and sweet mango mixed with red onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime, Liv and I are excited to announce that our recipe is featured in the current issue of Girls' Life Magazine.  Originally posted about a year ago and made with fresh California Avocados, magazine asked if we would mind if they printed our recipe for their Cinco de Mayo feature.  Nope... we don't mind.

Once again, thank you to the California Avocado Commission for including us in the avocado event, to avocado farmers Bill and Carol Steed for opening up their home and land to us, and to Chef Adrian of Sorrel in Temecula for a meal that won't soon be forgotten.

Avocado Mango Guaca-Salsa
A Liv Life Recipe featured in Girls' Life Magazine

Avocado Blossom
Avocado Mango Salsa is one of those versatile, make it how you like it sides.  Really like mango?  Add more  Only like a little cilantro?  Add less.  Adjust the ingredients to your liking and you have a salsa fit for chips and dip, a topping for grilled pork tenderloin or a wonderful side to your grilled fish. 
1/2 cup diced mango
1 avocado, diced

1 slice red onion, finely diced

1 1/2 tbs cilantro, finely chopped

1 Tbs lime juice, freshly squeezed (more if desired!)

salt to taste

Simply place all ingredients in a bowl and mix gently.  Season to taste... and enjoy!

Clockwise from left:  Lori Small representing the CAC, Rachel of La Fuji Mama tries her hand at picking avocados (not an easy job), and Food Bloggers with style...


  1. What a great experience and the food looks divine! Congrats on the recipe being published. I love guac and mangos and will have to give a try :o)

  2. Kim,
    You were so lucky to have this totally avocado experience, from tree to table. I love your Mango Guacamole. I know one thing that I am making for Cinco de Mayo.

    Unfortunately in Chicagoland, the only avocados that we can get here now are from Mexico . What's up with that?

  3. That guac looks I wish that YOU lived next door to ME!! Looks like you had a fun time...I love behind-the-scenes stuff like your tour. And that avocado fro-yo? favorite gelato at Whole Foods is the avocado. So creamy and rich!

  4. Way to rock the hairnet! I had no idea either all that work went into delivering me an avocado. It looks like you had a blast, made me wish I was there.

  5. WOW, what a great day :) I'm totally trying that guac-salsa!

  6. What an amazing day you had. So jealous... :)

  7. Mango and amazing guac? It so does not get better than this :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  8. Amazing post! What a great day. I always put mango in my guac!! so good!

  9. This is a first for me hearing of mango in guacamole. What a wonderful day you shared with us, Kim - and great photos. Wish I could have enjoyed it with you. One day, one day...

  10. Most of our avocados here are from Mexico. Sad, because I like the big ones from California much more. Lucky you to be invited to the blogger tour! Also congrats on the magazine feature. All in all I would say that this is one of those unforgettable experiences.
    Your mango avocado dip does look amazing, I can understand why the magazine jumped at the chance to feature it. Thanks for sharing this and have a great day!

  11. Oh wow! I would love try that ice cream :)
    Glorious salsa, very different take on ti.

  12. What an amazing experience! I could live on avocado's, how fun to go learn all about them from the source! Your salsa looks delicious.

  13. WOW! I have to admit I am quite jealous that you were able to do that! How much fun should consider yourself very lucky to live in California and enjoy those delicious avocados so much.

    I adore avocados and if I were there I probably would have eaten SO much I would make myself sick haha.

    Thanks for sharing this experience with us!

  14. I so envy you! I love love avocados and we rarely get here California ones. Mostly from Mexico or Florida.
    The Vanilla Bean Avocado Frozen Yogurt looks amazing!!! And i love the addition of mango to he guacamole

  15. This salsa looks super tasty! I made an avocado-apple salsa a few weeks ago that rocked my world! :D

  16. I love avocados more than anything! What a fun experience you had and I love the mango guac!

  17. I am a huge fan of Haas avocados. Sounds like such a fantastic experience!

  18. Looks like a fun day, mango guacamole sounds delicious!

  19. What a fun, educational and tasty tour! I take for granted the process involved in what a consider a kitchen staple. Can't wait to see your avocado ice cream--been wanting to try it out myself (grew up eating avocado as a sweet treat). In the meantime, I'll enjoy your fabulous salsa--love the idea of mango in a guac!

  20. Such a great day - I'm so glad we were able to go together! Great write up and photos - it is funny when food bloggers get together ... cameras first, eating second.


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