A ‘GEM’ of an Avocado

A new avocado variety is making its way into the global marketplace that might give the venerable Hass variety a run for its money. The acreage in California is increasing with yields increasing in production over the next three to five years. New acreage are now being planted each spring.

Dr. Tim Spann, Director of the California Avocado Commission’s Research Program says “There has been increasing interest from all sectors of the industry in the GEM avocado variety.  Dr. Spann suggests by the end of 2017, 180,000 GEM trees were propagated in California”  Spann also noted that due to GEMs being planted in orchard at different spacings it is difficult to accurately identify just how many acres that equates to.  The best estimate in 2017 was around 500 acres. In the past 3 years, this number has increased significantly.

Called 'GEM' — from the initials of Gray E. Martin, a University of California technician who helped develop it — the variety was actually patented and released back in 2003 but only recently has started to spark the new attention of growers. GEM has several positive attributes, including taste, size, color, productivity and seasonality that make it appealing to growers in Hawaii. Most people claim the taste is better than Hass.

Fruit Qualities
GEM avocados are pear-shaped with rough, thick, black skin that is flecked with gold, weighing an average of 7-11 oz (200 - 310 gm). Known for rivaling Hass in quality, GEM avocados have a fantastic, rich flavor. Avocado trees are bushy evergreen trees with large leaves. GEM avocados hold particularly well on the tree. The GEM variety has speckling on the skin and is a bit more oval in shape compared to the Hass variety.  GEM avocados have the same growing season as Hass and have a comparable post-harvest life.  As the fruit ripens, it begins to turn dark and many times the speckled lenticels with become a yellow or gold color. 

A benefit of the GEM variety is that because the trees are generally smaller compared to Hass, it can reduce the amount of labor needed during harvest. In California, the seasonality of ‘GEM' is somewhat later than that of ‘Hass,' allowing for a later start of harvesting and subsequently a later marketing window. In California, the fruit will hang on the tree very well into August and early September. In cooler places, like coastal Santa Barbara, California it can hang on the tree until October.

Global Distribution
GEM has only recently been introduced to Hawaii for evaluation. GEM is being grown in many places including Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the European Union, Israel, Morocco, New Zealand, Peru and countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Florida and California.

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