Local Flavors: Morro Bay avocado-growing couple discovers it's easy being green

A perfectly ripe avocado is a thing of beauty, especially a premium Hass from the Central Coast. Thanks to Kerry and Paul DeCarli’s The Avocado Company, people from near and far can enjoy the tasty fruits almost year round.

The DeCarlis started their avocado shipping business in 2004, and already have a legion of fans as far-flung as New York. Because both DeCarlis have full-time jobs, the enterprise is Internet-based for now, especially since "that makes it available to people 24 hours, but we don’t pick the avocados until the day after people order them, and then we ship them the next day," explained Kerry DeCarli. "Each order is picked to order, so we only harvest as we need to, not ahead of time."

Because the fruit is allowed to fully mature on the tree, buyers can enjoy the Hass avocados at the peak of flavor, and "that quality of fruit is our angle," said DeCarli. As the Web site further explains, "These fruit have not been sitting in storage or on the grocery shelf. They have not been squeezed by every consumer who passes by the produce aisle."

The avocados come from a small block of DeCarli’s parents’ ranch and orchard in Morro Bay, making her the third generation of her family to enter the business her grandfather started in the early 1970s.

DeCarli — a Cal Poly fruit science grad — was raised on the ranch, and recalled that "we’d always send people home with avocados. Eventually we thought that maybe we could make a business by packing and shipping them."

The majority of the avocados grown at the ranch are still sold to packing houses, but DeCarli dmitted that "we would love to turn this into a full-time business ... we hope to be able to direct-market the entire crop in the next few years."

Avocados from The Avocado Company will typically take about five to 10 days to ripen, depending on the season and time of transit. The Hass avocados will turn from green to black as they ripen, and the surface will give slightly when gentle pressure is applied. To speed ripening, put the fruit in a paper bag with bananas on your counter; to slow ripening, place avocados in the refrigerator for up to a week, then

remove and place on counter for ripening to continue. Do not remove the stem from the avocado; this causes moisture loss and can cause the fruit to ripen unevenly.

Avocado Soup

1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted

juice from 1⁄2 lime

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, cold or at room temperature

1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

1 teaspoon ground cumin

chopped chives, cilantro or hot sauce for garnish

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor.

Garnish as you wish and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Southwest Avocado Relish

2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled, pitted and diced

1 medium tomato, diced

1⁄2 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 small can cut corn, drained and rinsed

1⁄4 red onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (or garlic powder to taste)

1⁄4 cup lemon or lime juice

1⁄2 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons minced cilantro (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl.

Use as a topping for chicken fajitas, or serve with tortilla chips as a colorful alternative to guacamole.

— Katy Budge