We owe this culinary gift to the tinkering of a mailman named Rudolph Hass. Rudolph grew interested in the thick-skinned fruit after he saw a magazine ad with dollar bills growing on an avocado tree. He began purchasing seeds with the hope of launching a side gig, and grafted out the initial sprouts to multiply his crop.
A Ventura County Star profile of Rudolph’s ancestors recalls that “one stubborn baby tree, grown from a Guatemalan seed of unknown parentage, wouldn’t accept a graft,” so Rudolph set it aside as an experiment. When that tree first bore fruit Rudolph was delighted with the results; his avocados were far more creamy and flavorful than the Fuerte variety that were prevalent at the time. He filed a patent on this “Hass Avocado” (the first patent on a tree!) and arranged with a local grower named Harold Brokaw to bring his discovery to market.
In an article on the origins of the Hass avocado, Rudolph’s granddaughter Cindy Miller describes how the partnership with Brokaw let the cat out of the bag. “Since it was the first patent ever issued on a tree, it got no respect. Growers would buy one tree from Mr. Brokaw who had the exclusive right to produce the nursery trees. They would then re-graft their whole grove with the bud wood from that one tree.”
Over the years Hass seeds spread across the world and the mother tree slowly grew to a towering height of 65 feet. Rudolph never got rich on his patent, collecting less than $4,000 from Brokaw, but he took pride in the fact that these delicious avocados bore his family name. The mother tree stood beside the Hass homestead at 430 West Road, La Habra Heights until 2002 when it succumbed to the dreaded root rot. The mother’s wood is being lovingly preserved in Ventura by the Brokaw Nursery.
Know Before You Go
A historical plaque marks the mother tree's location at 426 West Road in La Habra.