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Let’s Talk about Avocados

It’s a great time of the year for avocados – that creamy green fruit that adds so much flavor to anything you put it in.  Avocados originated in Central Mexico and are also known as alligator pears due to their shape, pebbly skin, and green color.
Avocados are sodium and cholesterol-free with only about 5 grams of fat, just about all of it the monunsaturated kind (aka “good” fat).  In America, California accounts for about 60% of all avocado production with San Diego County laying claim as the Avocado Capitol of the U.S.

Aside from being great-tasting, avocado trees are great for the environment, particularly as more and more growers become certified organic growers.  Avocado orchards help renew our air supply and keep it fresh by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.  Southern California Avocado orchards remove 25 – 88 lbs of (dry nitrogenous) pollutants per acre from the environment. (Based on University of California deposition data).  Orchard trees lower air temperature by evaporating water in their leaves.  Avocado tree roots stabilize the soil and prevent erosion.  Avocado orchards can reduce storm run-off and the possibility of flooding. By slowing runoff and filtering rain water, orchards can improve water quality.  Avocado orchards provide shelter for wildlife.

Avocado’s come in many different varieties, but my favorite for pure deliciousness is the Haas, a common variety seen in the grocery store:

Distinctive for its skin that turns from green to purplish-black when ripe, the Hass is the leading variety of California Avocado and has an excellent shelf life.

Description:

  • Oval-shaped fruit
  • Small to medium seed
  • Easy peeling
  • Great taste

Size:

  • Full range from average to large, 5 to 12 ounces

Appearance:

  • Pebbly, thick but pliable skin
  • Pale green flesh with creamy texture

Ripe Characteristics:

  • Skin darkens as it ripens
  • Fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe

The best way to tell whether or not an avocado is ripe is to squeeze it gently.  Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm, but will yield to gentle pressure.

You can ripen avocados at home, too.  Simply place the fruit in a brown paper bag and store at room temperature.  The fruit should ripen in 2-5 days.  Ripe avocado can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

I love avocado ever since I was a child.  I remember there being a groovy hippie restaurant in Memphis that had all kinds of sandwiches, including a vegetarian sandwich that was avocado, cream cheese, thinly sliced red onions, and alfalfa sprouts on whole wheat bread.  It has just about always been my favorite sandwich ever.

Guacamole served in a molcajete

There is, of course, guacamole and many different ways to make it.  My favorite is the kind I ate regularly when I was living in New Mexico that adds a bit of chile hotness to the recipe:

Guacamole:

2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1 tsp lemon juice
4 green onions finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. red chile power (New Mexico red chile powder, if it’s available)
1/2 tsp salt

1. Mash avocados and sprinkle with lemon juice.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Makes 12 oz.

[Recipe from The Seasons:  A Cookbook for Life, published by Bueno Foods)

Avocados are out there!  Go eat ’em!

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