Last week I headed down to San Diego with the delightful Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking to visit Ben Holtz, avocado grower and super duper nice guy. I found out about Ben through an email introducing me to his company, California Avocados Direct, at about the same time many of my blogging pals were getting boxes of hand-picked avocados in the mail. Rather than just send a few emails back and forth we decided to see if Ben would let us visit. if there’s anything you know about farmers and growers it’s that they are some of the most polite and open people on the planet and love sharing what they do. So on a sunny Monday afternoon we piled in the car and paid Ben a visit.
I didn’t share this with anyone at the time, but knowing how freakishly in love with avocados Gaby actually is, I had some concerns that she’d just start running off in the middle of the field into a grove of avocado trees and then I’d have to ask Ben if he had an ATV I could borrow to try to find her and once I did I imagined she’d be stuck in a tree like a mad woman inhaling avocados, one hand holding on to a branch for dear life while the other arm smashed avocados all over her body as she emitted that high pitch monkey squeal whenever I’d get too close. You think this is a stretch but you do not know how she feels about avocados, do you? I do believe this scenario could happen.
But all kidding aside…
We were both captivated by Ben’s story of growing up on the family farm and being around avocados his entire life. His mother Mimi and father Ed, a farmer as well, still live on the land today. Ben and his brother Daniel graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with degrees in Bio Resource and Agricultural Engineering and it’s this level of knowledge that Ben shared with us as we walked through acres and acres of beautiful avocado trees.
Presented with technical information that my brain could never retain, we learned about the life cycle of avocado trees, which trees yield the best fruit, the importance of bees, how a tree is grafted and what it takes to bring avocados to market. As we sampled fruit and drove around, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am to be able to have the opportunity to ask Ben firsthand these questions and to spend time in such a beautiful place. Even if I had to keep an eye on my friend so she wouldn’t disappear.
But about those boxes of avocados. That was the real reason we were there as I wanted to know more about them. As a way to generate revenue due to the increased water costs Ben recently had the creative idea of hand-selecting pristine avocados, packaging them up and sending them directly from the grove to a customer’s doorstep, all while embracing social media as a way to share his story. I like that idea in theory, but I loved it in person: he literally walks out into his special private reserve, handcuts avocados, snaps a photo of him doing it and sends the fruit along with the photo.
Ben’s hands are the only ones who touch your fruit. I’m not sure anyone else can make that claim with supermarket avocados, but even if they could the magic factor is missing: the delightful Ben Holtz. And because of him, you’re getting perfect fruit each and every time. And trust me, you don’t really know what heaven is until you cut open an avocado while sitting underneath 30 year old trees and tasting its flesh, unadorned. Ben has superb avocados. And I should know, I’m sitting here eating one as I type this story!
Let’s have a little tour of the ranch, shall we? And make sure to read about the little giveway at the end of this post!
Without bees there is no avocado pollination. I ventured pretty close to the bees to get this photo, one apparently wanted to come home with me. Here’s a shot Gaby took of me photographing the bees. I’m giving you an Underwear Warning.
Ben’s Office: I think I could used to this sweeping view. And on the right is what I call the magic tunnel, a corridor of tall avocado trees that still bear fruit. The cooler temperature underneath the trees as well as the cleaner air was quite noticeable. I want to live there.
Here’s Ben plucking pristine avocados to personally package and post. How’s that for alliteration? On the right is a small avocado plant that’s sprouted from an avocado seed that’s been on the ground covered in rich ground covering. The trees love this cool damp covering; thanks to their shallow root systems, they need it.
****** A Giveaway! ****** Gaby and I are both giving away 1 fabulous box of 15 Hass Avocados from Ben and California Avocados Direct! All you have to do is leave a comment here at mattbites telling me your favorite way of using an avocado. Heck, just tell me how much you love them, I’m easy! I’ll randomly select one comment and announce it this Friday, April 22nd, just leave a comment any time from now until Friday 8am PST. And this giveaway is twice as nice when you head over to Gaby’s site to enter, too.
Also, Ben has been such a gracious host and offered a one-time 30% discount from now until tomorrow at midnight (Tuesday, 4/19 PST) on any of your California Avocado orders. Make sure to enter “GabyandMatt” during checkout to take advantage of this limited offer.
All The Fine Print: I never want you to question my motives. Because of this I want you to know that one of my most beloved clients is the California Avocado Commission and I photograph many of their recipes for their website. My visit to Ben, a grower of California Avocados, came via a press release from them and that’s when Gaby and I both put on our thinking caps. I personally purchased the avocados I am giving away on this post, this is not a sponsored blog post. Thank you!