Avocados are picked best with orange clippers. The stem is usually swollen just above the point of attachment with the fruit; it should be severed with the clippers immediately above this swollen portion. In order to supply the early markets, avocados are sometimes picked before they are fully mature, a custom which should be discouraged. Immature fruits are certain to be inferior in flavor, and should they fall into the hands of those who were trying the avocado for the first time they would be certain to give a bad impression. Trapps are usually left on the tree as long as possible, in order to obtain the high prices which late fruit commands; when they begin to change from bright green to yellowish green they must be picked or they will drop. If they are picked only a day or two before they would drop, they are sure to ripen in transit and reach the market in an over-ripe condition. To prevent this, Cellon advises that questionable fruits be laid aside for twenty-four hours; if at the end of this time they are still firm, they may safely be packed for shipment.
The standard package for avocados in southern Florida is the tomato crate, which measures about 12 X 12 X 24 inches. It is sometimes used with a partition in the center, sometimes without. Excelsior is placed above and below each layer of fruits as a cushion, and is stuffed around them freely to hold them in place and prevent bruising. Some growers wrap each fruit in tissue-paper, but the wisdom of this practice is doubtful. The fruits heat more quickly when wrapped, and as heating greatly hastens the ripening process it should be avoided as much as possible. Avocados must not be packed under such great pressure as oranges, more care being necessary in nailing on the top of the crate to avoid crushing the fruits.
The number of fruits to a crate varies from twenty-three to fifty-four with Trapp, the average being about forty. Pollocks run from eighteen to thirty-six to a crate, while seedlings run from twenty-eight to ninety. Quotations, f. o. b. southern Florida, are sometimes made by crate, sometimes by dozen fruits. The following figures on Trapps are those quoted by one of the principal shippers at Miami during the past several years:
First week in October, 54s (that is, fruits which pack 54 to the crate), 75 cents a dozen; 50s, 85 cents; 46s, $1; 36s, $1.30; 28s, $1.75; 23s, $2. After November first the price is increased on all sizes, as follows: 50s, $1.50 a dozen; 46s, $2; 36s, $3. At Thanksgiving the prices vary from $3 to $4 a dozen for 24s, 36s, and 46s, and about Christmas they advance to $4 to $6 a dozen.
Pollocks are quoted during August as follows: 36s, 75 cents a dozen; 28s, $1; 24s, $1.50; 18s, $2. The quotations on high-grade seedling fruits at the same time are as follows: 50s to 60s, 60 cents a dozen; 46s, 75 cents; 36s, $1; 28s, $1.50.
Prices on Trapps a crate vary from about $2 in early October to as high as $36 for the last few crates at the end of the season in February; these figures are f. o. b. southern Florida. From one of the principal groves near Miami the entire crop has been marketed for several years at an average net price of $5.25 a crate averaging forty fruits. The average return from 1400 crates shipped from another grove was $5.50 a crate.
Trapps have been shipped from southern Florida to all parts of the United States. A few years ago one grower sent small consignments every day during a large part of the season to Seattle, Washington, and did not receive a complaint of a crate received in bad order. These shipments were on the road eight days, and were not sent in cold storage. It is the general practice to ship from Florida by express. The shipping qualities of Trapp are much better than those of the average seedling.
At present most of the Florida Trapp crop goes to the markets of the eastern United States, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston each taking a good share. Some growers have shipped heavily to Chicago and other points in the Middle West, and small shipments go to the Pacific Coast each year.
The production in California has not yet become great enough to permit of commercial shipments to eastern markets, the crop being consumed locally. Since most of the returns up to the present time are based on the crop from the parent seedling tree of each variety, they are of little value to show the probable profits from a budded orchard of the same sort. The most remarkable record which has been made by a commercial planting of budded trees is that of J. T. Whedon at Yorba Linda. Whedon's planting of the Fuerte variety, containing fifty trees (less than one acre), produced a crop of fruit when five years old which sold for $1700.