Avocados (Persea americana) fruit on large evergreen trees originating from Central America. Grown as a commercial crop in New Zealand since the 1970s, they require a frost-free climate. Northland and Bay of Plenty are the main growing regions, with around 4,400 hectares in cultivation in 2005. Hass, a Guatemalan-origin hybrid, is the main variety.
The good oil
New Zealand has been at the forefront of developing an avocado-oil industry, based on cold-press extraction. Oil is extracted from the flesh, and used for salads and cooking. With its high smoking point of 255°C, avocado oil is suitable for fast frying and wok cooking. It is also used in cosmetics and skincare products. The oil earned $2.1 million in exports in 2006.
As avocado trees are susceptible to phytophthora root rot, good drainage is essential. The light, free-draining volcanic soils of Bay of Plenty are ideal. Northland’s heavier clay soils present challenges, although the climate is more favourable.
The trees flower between October and December, and the pear-shaped fruit develop on the tree for 9 to 15 months before harvest. Mature fruit ripen after they have been picked.
Avocado fruit averaged $30 million annually in export earnings between 2001 and 2006. Ninety per cent of exports in 2006 were to Australia. Avocados are also widely consumed in New Zealand, with local sales of $15.1 million in 2005.
Persimmons (Diospyrus kaki) are the fruit of deciduous trees that originate in China and have been cultivated for centuries in Japan. Persimmons have been grown in New Zealand since 1873, but they are a relatively new export crop. In 2006, they accounted for 195 hectares of commercial orchards.
The main export variety, Fuyu, a non-astringent persimmon, was first brought to New Zealand in the early 1980s. It needs long warm summers and is grown primarily in the Gisborne and Auckland regions. Persimmons are harvested between April and mid-June.
When you bite on an unripe persimmon your mouth dries out and the fruit tastes bitter. This is caused by tannins in the fruit binding with proteins in your saliva. When the fruit ripens, the sourness disappears.
Persimmons grow well on soils with a slightly acid pH (6–6.5). If grown on clay they require good drainage. On lighter sandy soils they will not tolerate dryness, and need irrigation.
Persimmon exports are mainly to Asia, with smaller markets in Australia and Europe. Exports were worth $7.5 million in 2006.