NewsMilwaukee Tonight


The most popular type of avocado was planted by Milwaukee native, Rudolph Hass

95% of all avocados consumed in the U.S. and a majority of avocados consumed globally can be traced back to one tree planted by a Milwaukee native.
Posted at 5:01 PM, Dec 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-17 09:41:58-05

MILWAUKEE — It's a played-out joke - millennials love avocado toast. I think we can all agree, avocado toast is delicious (this is coming from a millennial). Avocados have become ubiquitous in our diets whether it's in a spread, guacamole, or even in a smoothie. However, our obsession with avocados might not be the same had it not been for one man from Milwaukee who could be called the godfather of avocados.

Shockingly, 95% of all avocados consumed in the U.S. and a majority of avocados consumed globally can be traced back to one tree planted by a Milwaukee native. Introducing, Rudolph Hass.

He was born in Milwaukee in 1892. He moved to La Habra in Southern California in 1923. He became a mailman, but that's not what he would become famous for. In 1925, as people in the region were becoming more interested in subtropical fruits, Hass planted his famous avocado tree, according to Dr. Mary Lu Arpaia, the cooperative extension specialist and professor of extension of tropical horticulture at the University of California, Riverside. She has been studying avocados since 1983.

Rudolph and his wife Elizabeth Hass.

The Hass avocado is actually a lucky mistake. Hass tried grafting his tree with the dominant avocado strain at the time, the Fuerte. Grafting is a technique that joins two plants into one. Some of his trees took to grafting, but one didn't. He almost decided to chop that tree down, but instead, let it live. That one tree changed avocado history.

When Hass' tree finally beared fruit, people recognized that it had a richer taste and creamier texture. Once that was discovered people started wanting a piece of the Hass tree.

"People knew it was a very high eating quality fruit in fact from a post-harvest perspective it probably sets the gold standard," Dr. Arpaia said.

After shopping his avocados around, Hass knew he had something special on his hands. He got one of the first-ever fruit patents. Afterward, he struck a deal with a local nursery. The nursey would grow and sell the trees, and Hass would get a cut of the sales.

That would have worked well had it not been for people illegally circumventing the law. People illegally grafted the Hass tree they bought and planted groves of them. Due to that, Hass only made about $5,000 from his patent.

In 1945, an article by H.B. Griswold in the California Avocado Society said that the Hass avocado was superior because of its size, good shipping quality, and its growing season. In the same article, it said that the nursey sold 16,250 Hass avocado trees from 1936-1945.

Hass Avocado
The Hass avocado mother tree planted in La Habra, California by Rudolph Hass.

However, it wasn't until the 1970's that the tree took off nationwide. Avocados we know today tend to ripen when they turn darker. Back in the middle of the 20th century, eating blackened fruit wasn't an attractive idea. However thanks to some clever marketing, the Hass avocado was pushed, and then it exploded into popularity, Dr. Arpaia said.

"It's the number one variety commercially worldwide," she said.

Hass avocados are grown and eaten in Chile, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Africa. They are the most common variety in the world. In fact, the world's largest producer of avocados, Mexico, sent 1.7 billion pounds of the fruit to the United States in 2017.

Today, you can't go to a restaurant without seeing avocados in at least one of the dishes. In Milwaukee, there is a food truck called Vocado MKE that exclusively sells avocado toast. At the Public Market in Milwaukee, the vegan restaurant On The Bus can barely keep up with demand.

"Yeah, we definitely sell at least 10 to probably around 50 sandwiches that include avocado," general manager Emily Schicker said.

So the next time you see an avocado in the grocery store or see guacamole on the menu, you can thank the Milwaukee native turned southern California mailman, Rudolph Hass.

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip

milwaukee tonight


Nominate your 'Hidden Gem' for Milwaukee Tonight

Milwaukee Tonight focuses on the people, places, and events that make the community special. From artists to architecture, food to festivals, neighborhoods to nightlife - this show is a nightly reminder that our city is filled with stories to be proud of. Watch weekdays at 6:30 p.m. on TMJ4.