Florida has nearly 60 varieties of avocado. I didn’t realize that until my husband and I moved into a house that had two avocado trees, in a neighborhood filled with them, and began noticing many differences between ours and our neighbors’. Some were long and tear-shaped with shiny, smooth skin; others, like ours, were more globe-shaped with scalier skin. A couple of Florida types, I discovered as I researched them, even feature a glossy, dark purple peel.
To make my adjustment to Florida avos, also known as “pear alligators,” more difficult, I was used to the Hass variety, having lived previously in California. When I queried foodie friends about our newfound wealth, many dismissed the plethora of varieties as “watery” and flavorless.
This claim turned out to be untrue. Certainly the Florida varieties, which are descended from a different race, aren’t as small, dense and rich as Hass can be. But I was happy to find that our particular Choquette variety, more appropriately termed “juicy” have a mellow flavor and an appealing, light-green flesh that is versatile. Hass avocadoes can become bitter if you heat them up too much, but these seem to hold up to a flame—perhaps because they do contain more water (and less calories, fyi).
Our trees can produce a ton of fruit—in a good season I’ll be collecting dozens per day—so I’m always looking for new and different ways to use them. Chefs in Miami make avocado ice cream, cake, and even wine with them. I took a cue from Mexican cooks, who add chopped avocado to hot dishes such as tortilla soup, and created this polenta recipe. It’s delicious served in soft and creamy dollops, but if you allow the polenta to harden in a pan, you can also slice this South of the Border-inspired side dish up and serve it as tapas-style bite at any summer gathering.