Avocados should not be harvested until they reach a degree of maturity at which they will ripen to acceptable eating quality and deliver a positive experience to consumers. Avocados should also not be harvested too late as late hanging fruit place a carbohydrate load on the tree which reduces next years crop yield.
Harvest maturity will vary from year to year and with location on your property for each variety. Rootstocks may also have an influence.
Avocado fruits have a number of characteristics that help indicate harvest maturity.
Judging maturity on these characteristics is not reliable, but with experience in comparing them with dry matter test results, they can help indicate when to start dry matter testing. These characteristics include:
- fruit stalk is larger, swollen and distinctly yellow, rather than green
- seed coat is dry, dark and somewhat shrivelled, rather than pale whitish
- fruit is generally larger — but not always so
- skin is dull and lustreless, with a powdery appearance rather than shiny. The usefulness of this depends on variety. For example, it is not much use on the early, thin-skinned types such as Bacon.
- 'Hass' fruit that are very mature will start to go purple on the outside.
Percentage dry matter
Percentage dry matter is the easiest of the reasonably accurate maturity tests.
Research has shown a good correlation between dry matter and consumer acceptance. The level at which you harvest will depend on variety and intended market. For example, consumer research conducted for Avocados Australia Limited has demonstrated that the variety Hass has improved consumer acceptance if left to reach at least 23% dry matter.
Note that varieties also have an upper level of dry matter (maturity), after which palatability drops off. This is heavily location–dependent. Growers should discuss this with their marketing group. To avoid this and having late hanging fruit affecting next years yield try and harvest as soon as possible after reaching the 23% dry matter mark.