The Wilson Popenoe Avocado

The Wilson Popenoe is an endangered avocado know for its distinctive flavor.  Its history is closely intertwined with that of South Florida, so Slow Food Miami is working with local farmers to reintroduce the avocado for sustainable production in South Florida.   

No one has done more to popularize the avocado in the United States than Wilson Popenoe. Wilson Popenoe traveled the Americas importing a broad diversity of tropical fruits into the United States, including several of his “favorite” avocados to Florida.  The ‘Wilson Popenoe’ avocado, unlike most oily commercial cultivars, is lighter, enormous (up to a pound each), has shiny green skin, grows well in humid sub-tropical and tropical areas, has great flavor and a creamy buttery texture. This is one of the reasons Slow Food Miami, with the help of Dr. Helen Violi (University of Florida) and Mike Winterstein (USDA-ARS Miami), has selected this avocado as the first fruit from South Florida to be nominated to the Ark of Taste. Another important reason for this nomination is the ‘Wilson Popenoe’ avocado’s historical connection to the Miami area.  Thanks to the efforts of Wilson Popenoe and the famous botanist David Fairchild, South Florida became a melting pot for sub-tropical and tropical avocados in the early 1900’s. Although this cultivar of avocado had a very promising start, today there are only a few trees left in Florida, one of which in the USDA-ARS collection has been infected with the avocado sunblotch viroid, which causes serious disease in avocados and consequently cannot be distributed.  To prevent extinction and support sustainable production of the ‘Wilson Poponoe’ avocado in Florida, efforts to produce healthy sources of budwood are underway at the USDA-ARS facility in Miami and the Williams Grove Genetic Resource Center. Because of its great taste, historical connection to Miami and the impending threat of extinction, Slow Food Miami has dedicated itself to re-introducing the ‘Wilson Popenoe’ to Miami, our members, to local Chefs, Slow Food USA and The Ark of Taste.

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