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The Zutano avocado resembles the fuerte avocado with its pear shape and thin, glossy green skin, which remains green even when ripe, however, its flesh is not as creamy or as rich in flavor. It has low oil but high water content, resulting in a slightly watery flavor, and has pale green flesh with a fibrous texture. Its mild flavor and problematic peeling makes it less desirable than other avocado varieties. The Zutano avocado tree grows upright, with a rounded shape and spreading branches, reaching heights of thirty to forty feet. It has oval dark green leaves with a glossy sheen, and its small flowers are greenish-white in color, and they bear in clusters at the branch tips. The Zutano avocado tree produces heavily and is more tolerant of cold weather than other cultivars. The fruits mature to about six inches in length, averaging six to fourteen ounces in weight, and are harvested from mid-autumn to late winter. The avocados must reach full maturity, taking about six months, before they are harvested. However, unlike most fruit, avocados will not ripen on the tree, allowing growers to use the avocado trees as a warehouse for storing fruit for months after maturity.
Avocados are members of the Lauraceae family, and are botanically referred to as Persea americana Mill. Avocado varieties are further identified as being either Type A or Type B, referring to their flowering type. The two types open and close in a different pattern, meaning that there is overlapping between the male stage of one type and the female stage of another, essentially encouraging cross-pollination. The presence of both types of trees in avocado orchards can improve production due to adequate pollination. Zutano avocados are Type B, and are in fact often used as a pollinizer tree for the Type A hass avocado. Farmers have noted that hass avocado trees near a Zutano avocado tree regularly have considerably larger fruit set than those planted farther away. Some growers are planting Zutano trees around the edge of their hass avocado grove and pruning them not to produce fruit, but primarily to provide flowers for cross-pollination. However, the price of Zutano avocados has been so low that the sale of fruit seldom pays for the water the tree needs, and growers that use Zutano trees as a pollinizer must also weigh the increase in yield of the hass avocado against the loss of space for planting more of the profitable hass avocado trees. Despite the varying benefits and drawbacks, Zutano avocados are still grown in California, especially in the San Joaquin Valley where it is too cold for the hass variety in the winter. Groves in that area are slowly declining due to the low prices for Zutano fruit.