When I started growing some avocado seedlings as a hobby, I had rather a lot of theoretical knowledge – and very little practical knowledge.
A few years in, I have found that theoretical knowledge is of limited relevance – due to practical limitations in 'breeding' avocados. And the practical knowledge that I have been able to accumulate is the most use.
But I was completely ignorant of the tediousness of tasting and checking the fruit of the seedlings.
You might think it is exciting to have in your hand an avocado fruit that no-one else on earth has ever tasted. Full of tantalizing promise! But the hope of excellence – so far – quickly fades as fruit after fruit turns out to be sub-par, mediocre, or worse.
And that's just the quality of the fruit. I am not even considering the suitability (height and spread) of the tree to my goal of a tree that fits the average backyard.
In fact, so far almost every fruiting seedling tree should be discarded as “too big” even before the fruit is tasted. But I am a hobbyist, and having gone through the years of waiting for fruiting, it is extremely hard to discard a tree without 'seeing what its fruit is like' - no matter how illogical that is.
Is it is worth eating – does it taste as good as a commercial variety available at the same time of year?
Does it ripen fully, with no sweetness or rubberyness at the neck?
Does the skin peel?
Is the skin so hard and shell like that it's hard to tell when the fruit is ripe?
Does the fruit take a stupidly long time to ripen on the kitchen bench?
Is it free of fiber, or at least, almost free of fiber?
Is the seed size within tolerable bounds?
Does it resist fruit splitting?
Are there objectionable flavors, especially bitterness?
These 'tests' have to be done late winter, early spring, mid-late spring, and summer. Why? Because I have no idea at first what a given seedlings correct season is – a few are acceptable in late winter, and therefore 'early'. Most are mid to late spring ripe. A few are not good until summer.
And all should be compared with 'mainstream'
varieties picked at the same time. If a fruit is no better than
the mainstream alternative, then, unless the tree has something
special about it, there is no point keeping the plant.
And yes, there are a few fruit that taste 'as good
as' or better than the mainstream cultivars. One has an
extremely intense oiliness, for example, but the 'flavor' is
quite different to 'normal' nutty or mild avocado flavor, and
I'm not sure everyone would find it appealing (I do). And
texture can vary - from pasty (like Hass) to so fine textureed
it seems 'plasticy', and so 'light textured' the flesh seems to
melt in the mouth (not a good thing, in my opinion!). But there
are always major faults - hardshell skin, fibers, a seed that is
far to big, and so on.
As always, the opinion on what it tastes like, and
what the fruit texture is like varies with the tasters! We don't
taste under standardized conditions - colored light to turn off
flesh color signals, checkbox reporting, standard size pieces,
palate-cleansing intervals with carrot 'taste chaser' and so on.
Having now done two rounds of the necessary tests (late winter and early spring), I am now full of admiration for the professionals, who must have to test and taste a vastly greater number of seedlings every year than I do!
And it reinforces the fact that Hass is an amazing variety. It ticks all boxes, has a long season, stores well, is climate-adaptable, and bears stupidly heavily. It's only negative – from both the home garden and the commercial orchardists point of view – is that the tree is too big.