Malama Avocado Grow Guide

A Perfectly Mature and Ripe Malama Avocado Cut In Half
Image Credit: Kupa’a Farms

In Hawaiian, ‘Malama’ means to care for and protect.

And while Malama Avocado was named after its original propagation location (Malama-Ki), the tree produces so much fruit (at least in Hawaii) that one could argue the tree cares for and protects those who grow it by providing an abundance of fruit.

Moreover, (spoiler alert) the fruit is also exceptionally delicious!

Note: Malama is a Hawaiian Avocado. Therefore, this grow guide will primarily focused on its characteristics when cultivated in Hawaii, supplemented by my observations of Malama grown in Florida.

With that being said, this grow guide will cover everything that you need to know about Malama Avocado:

Table of Contents

Malama Avocado Tree Characteristics

The Malama Avocado Tree is a Flowering Type B Avocado. In other words, the female flowers open in the afternoon and male flowers in the morning. In order to maximize Malama’s fruit production, the tree should be planted near a Flowering Type A Avocado with a similar fruiting season.

This includes avocado cultivars such as:

  • Wurtz (HI)
  • San Miguel (HI)

In Hawaii, Malama’s fruit production consistently ranges from good to heavy. However, when cultivated outside of Hawaii in regions like California and Florida, growers have consistently reported Malama’s fruit production to range from poor to fair. (You’ll soon notice a recurring theme… 👀)

A Malama Avocado on a scale reading 1.75 pounds.
Image Credit: Bradley Smith

When grown in Hawaii, the avocados themselves are medium-sized fruits that typically weigh between 1.0 – 1.75 lbs and have an amazing flesh-to-seed ratio. However, in California/Florida, the avocados are small-sized fruits that typically weigh between 0.5 – 0.75 lb and have a decent flesh-to-seed ratio.

Half of a Malama Avocado that is ripe and mature
Image Credit: Kainaliu Fresh

The University of Hawaii’s official report states that Malama Avocado is a Guatemalan Hybrid, although it does not specify the other ecological race. However, I speculate that Malama is a Guatemalan X Mexican Hybrid based on both the fruit’s ripening characteristics as well as its higher oil content.

If this is the case, similar to other Guatemalan X Mexican Hybrids like Bacon, Fuerte, Hass, Super Hass and Winter Mexican, Malama is highly cold tolerant and able to withstand temperatures as low as 22º F.

Finally, the Malama Avocado Tree exhibits a vigorous and spreading growth habit in Hawaii. Conversely, outside of Hawaii, including both California and Florida, Malama has been reported to be much less vigorous while still maintaining its spreading growth habit.

Malama Avocado Flavor Profile

The Malama Avocado’s leathery skin is smooth and pliable, making it easy to peel away from the fruit.

Upon opening the fruit, the seed will pop right out of the cavity, leaving no trace of seed husk sticking to the fruit.

A Perfectly Mature and Ripe Malama Avocado Cut In Half
Image Credit: Kupa’a Farms

The fruit’s bright yellow flesh is thick and deliciously creamy, with a consistency akin to slightly warmed butter and devoid of any fibers. Additionally, Malama boasts a high oil content of upwards of 18% to 20%, making it an excellent candidate for guacamole.

In terms of flavor, Malama possesses a very rich and distinctive nuttiness, that is also complemented by a slight sweetness. When perfectly ripened, Malama’s flavor undoubtedly earns its place as a top shelf avocado.

A Perfectly Mature and Ripe Malama Avocado Cut In Half
Image Credit: Tropical Acres Farms

Compared to other Hawaiian Avocados, Malama shares a striking resemblance in taste to Kahalu’u. Furthermore, when comparing Malama’s flavor to avocado cultivar that thrive in Florida, I would say that it tastes most similar (in my opinion) to either a Lula or a Day.

If I lived in Hawaii, Malama would undoubtedly be one of the first avocado trees that I would plant in my yard 😋

Half of a Perfectly Mature and Ripe Malama Avocado
Image Credit: Bradley Smith

Malama Avocado Season (And When To Pick)

Malama Avocados are considered a mid-season avocado (October – November).

That said, the best time to pick Malama Avocados are when they are mature on the tree

An immature Malama Avocado Hanging on the Tree
Image Credit: Bradley Smith

From a color perspective, this is when the fruit has transitioned to a dull deep-purple. In addition to color, we can also check if the fruit is full size and then attempt to gently remove it from the tree.

If all three of these conditions are met (in addition to it being Oct – Nov), then Malama should be ready to harvest! 

A crate full of mature but unripe Malama Avocados
Image Credit: Terri Mulroy

And while determining an avocado’s maturity can be difficult and require some trial and error, I have developed a repeatable process that has worked great for me:

  1. Starting Oct 1, after the fruit has transitioned to a dull deep-purple color, pull a single fruit off the tree and allow it ripen for 3 – 8 days (at room temperature)
    • Delicately create small indents all around the fruit using your fingers.
      • If you detect a mixture of hard and soft spots, the fruit is not yet ripe. 
      • Conversely, uniform softness (not super soft) throughout the fruit indicates that it is ready for consumption.
  2. Taste the fruit – is the taste or consistency off ?
    • If the fruit tastes great, the rest of the avocados on our tree are ready to be harvested
    • If the fruit tastes sour/foul/rancid, wait another month and repeat the process with another single fruit
A pile of Malama Avocados at a grocery store in Hawaii priced at $2.5 / pound
Image Credit: Kainaliu Fresh

After confirming that the avocados on our tree are mature, we can begin developing our ‘avocado pipeline.’ This involves picking some fruit to ripen on the counter for more immediate use while also placing others in the refrigerator to be used later. By adopting this approach, we can ensure a continuous supply of ripe avocados.

Malama Avocado History

The Malama Avocado was initially propagated by the University of Hawaii in Malama-Ki, Hawaii, in 1981. Malama was originally named Mal R2T1, indicating the location where the cultivar was grown and selected.

For my fellow fruit tree nerds, here is a link to the University of Hawaii’s original report on the Malama Avocado.

Malama is speculated to be a seedling of Kahalu’u.

Malama Avocado Tree For Sale

Since Malama isn’t considered worthwhile to grow in Florida, it’s quite rare to come across in the nursery trade.

However, if you reside in Hawaii (somewhere I aspire to be one day!), you can visit Plant It Hawaii’s website and utilize their retailer directory to locate a nursery that carries Malama.

Conclusion

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If you have any questions regarding anything mentioned in this grow guide, please comment them below! This way, others can also benefit from the answer to the same question. For any other questions or growing tips that you think may be helpful, feel free to use the contact form and drop me a line.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

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Matthew Rowlings

I have an Associates Degree in Biology from the University of Florida and am also an active Florida Master Gardener. I am located in Central Florida (Zone 10A) and have 6+ years of experience with growing 20+ types of tropical trees. You can learn more about me and why I started Tropical Tree Guide on my about page.

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