Thomas Shedden’s mother lived to age 95. Avocados formed a large part of her diet, and it was Shedden’s belief that his mother’s longevity and good health was due to this. In her honor, Shedden named an avocado that he discovered after her, MacArthur being his mother’s maiden name.
The original MacArthur avocado tree grew about 1922 on Shedden’s property in Monrovia, at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California. There Shedden maintained a large collection of avocado varieties “in order that he might make comparative studies of their value and distribute budwood of the most promising.”
By 1950, MacArthur was a variety recommended for commercial planting by the California Avocado Society, of which Shedden had been a charter member. And in 1960, MacArthur avocados were the third most popular variety marketed by Calavo Growers, the largest seller of avocados, only behind the Fuerte and Hass varieties.
The MacArthur avocado’s skin remains green when ripe, and the fruit has the shape of a Bartlett pear. Its size is larger than Hass.
Cut open, its flesh shows only a few dark fibers at the stem end and its seed is medium in size, usually round but sometimes having a small point at its top.
The skin is medium in thickness, similar to Hass, and it peels off the flesh cleanly.
In texture, MacArthur avocados lean toward wet and soft, similar to Sir-Prize, convenient for mashing on a slice of sandwich bread or toast. The oil content is moderate.
MacArthur’s flavor is pleasant, not strong, sometimes subtly sweet. And I sometimes sense a background flavor that I experience in a few other avocado varieties (Hellen, for example), which I don’t have words to describe except to say that it’s a kind of bitterness.
The harvest season for MacArthur is summer.
Where did MacArthur go?
Today, you might find MacArthur avocados appearing in a few farmers market stalls in the Ventura and Santa Barbara areas but that’s it. The variety was recommended for commercial planting in those areas only, and farmers market fruit come from old leftover trees there.
I know of a few old MacArthur trees in backyards in Los Angeles County, but I never see young MacArthur trees sold in nurseries these days.
As a summer variety, MacArthur is good but not the best. Inheriting a yard with a mature MacArthur tree would be a blessing; however, if I were choosing a summer variety to plant, I would prefer Reed.
Thomas Shedden once wrote, “I hope to live long enough to see the avocado an acceptable, plentiful, reasonably priced, daily food of the rich and the poor alike.”
He died in 1935, too soon to experience what he hoped for, but Shedden’s efforts at testing, discovering, and sharing avocados during those early years when few Americans outside of California and Florida had even heard of an avocado helped it come true for us today.
Enjoy my video profile of Thomas Shedden’s MacArthur avocado:
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