The annual holiday food shortage-that’s-not-really-a-shortage is back, just in time for Cinco de Mayo.
(Before we go any further: Whatever you do this Cinco de Mayo, make sure you’re visiting this cultural appropriation checklist. It’s one thing to know about the history of Cinco de Mayo and drink a margarita (or make some guac) to celebrate the amazing cultural diversity of this country, and another to call it “Cinco de Drinko” and turn Mexican culture into a caricature.)
Back to the avocado business: As you’ve probably seen all over the news this week, there’s an avocado shortage this year, thanks to it being an off year for the crops in Mexico and California.
Avocados are “alternate-bearing crops, with large harvests one year and smaller ones the next,” Bloomberg reported a few days ago, and this is the year when the crop is smaller. Americans are eating more than seven pounds of avocados a year, up from only a pound in 1989, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.
Seven pounds of avocados is a lot, especially considering that includes people who don’t eat avocados at all or who live in parts of the country where they aren’t as readily available.
In Texas, that number has to be higher, thanks to the prevalence of guacamole and, yes, avocado toast. On Cinco de Mayo, lots of Texans will be scooping out that bright green avocado flesh. It’s the second-highest avocado consumption day, right behind the Super Bowl.
Although we very well could be seeing an avocado shortage in other parts of the country, it’s hard to find signs of it in Austin. I visited half a dozen grocery stores this week, and all of them had lots of avocados at reasonable prices.
Despite a comment from a store representative from H-E-B who said their avocado costs were running higher because of “growing conditions and weather events” (note: that’s not the “alternative-bearing” year reason given in the initial stories), they don’t seem to be passing the cost along to consumers, at least as of Wednesday and Thursday.
Both Central Market and H-E-B had plenty of cases of avocados at regular prices: 68 cents for the smaller avocados and $1.78 for the larger. (That’s the typical price, unless they are on sale for 50 cents/$1.50.)
Shortage averted, I decided to answer a question I’ve always had: How many small avocados are in a big one? As in, is there a cost savings if I buy two or three small of the small ones instead of a big one, or vice versa?
I got out my kitchen scale to find out. It turns out that the seeds of both of my samples weighed the same amount: 31 grams. The smaller one, minus the seed and skin, was just over 100 grams, exactly half of the amount of bright green creamy flesh contained in the bigger one.
The takeaway: At 68 cents, you can buy two avocados for $1.36 and save yourself 40 cents for the same amount of avocado.
There’s one caveat, however: Frequent avocado buyers know that that quality of the smaller avocados is less assured. Even though both are usually Hass avocados, the larger ones tend to be higher in quality.
When you’re making guacamole, quality matters, but because the dish is all smashed together, it’s easier to hide imperfections, so for my money, you can go with the small avocados and save a bit of money.
Since I was working with avocados, I decided to do a side-by-side taste comparison of the H-E-B prepared guacamole and Good Foods’ sealed tableside chunky guacamole.
They were the same cost for the same amount and a nearly exact ingredient deck. However, when we pulled out our chips, it became clear that the H-E-B guacamole had significantly more lime juice. Too much for our liking, especially when eaten right after the more balanced Good Foods’ guacamole.