The Father of the Hass Avocado Made a Total of Four Grand From It
The story of the avocado goes far back into prehistory, back when mammoths ate the fruits and pooped out the seeds. Like just about every bit of produce we eat today, it later underwent many years of selective breeding to make it as edible as possible. Then it took a strange turn.
The vast majority of avocados today are one variety, called the Hass avocado. We can trace them all to one guy, Rudolph Hass, and to one tree he owned. And he didn’t even create the special breed on purpose.
In 1926, Hass, a mailman, planted three avocado trees on his own land. One, thanks to wacky mutations, turned out weird. The fruits had thick bumpy skin, while most avocados back then had smooth peels that were an attractive shade of green. The way Hass told it, it was his children who saved the weird tree, trying the fruits and pointing out that they tasted much better than normal avocados.
Taste alone wouldn’t have been enough to make the Hass avocado dominate. The market generally favors fruits that look better, even if that means they taste blander. But the thick skin also meant the Hass avocado could travel longer without taking damage, so it was destined to spread wide. Hass had so much faith in the new product that he took a patent out on it.
Yes, it’s possible to patent plants, though enforcing that patent is a different story. Today, if you develop a new breed that exists nowhere in nature and that can’t reproduce through seeds, you can get a patent, and anyone who uses cuttings from your plant to make their own plants breaks the law. Hass got a patent calling the avocado his, but people who bought seedlings then grafted them to other trees and grew endless more plants of their own.
By the time his patent expired in the 1950s, Hass had made $4,000 off his avocados, which wasn’t exactly a fortune, even in those days. Today, 85 percent of all avocados grown in the world are Hass avocados. That’s 85 percent of the 7 million tons of avocados people grow and mash up every year.
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