Avocado

Avocados are the perfect companions to fresh summer fruit salads. Always serve immediately after slicing.

The creamy flesh of an avocado is not sweet or juicy. It is most often used as a fresh accompaniment. Moderate cooking on low heat will not affect the taste, but high temperatures tend to make the buttery insides bitter.

Avocados are high in calories and monounsaturated (“good”) fat but are also an excellent source of Vitamin E and potassium.

History

Avocados originated in South America and were further developed in Mexico. Researchers have found evidence of them as early as 900 AD in Peru.

In the early 1800s, they made an appearance in the U.S. They were often referred to as “alligator pears,” due to the exterior shape and texture (although some varieties have a smooth skin).

The avocado will not ripen until it is picked. Most growers leave the fruit on the tree until ready to ship.

Varieties

All avocado varieties fall into three basic groups: West Indian, Guatemalan, and Mexican. The most familiar names are:

Hass – from California, this notable – and flavorful - fruit makes the best guacamole. The flesh is too soft, however, for salads. The Lamb Hass is a hybrid.

Mexican – smallish and ready to eat; skin is also edible.

Pinkertonsquash-shaped and easy to peel with excellent flavor.

Reed – large and round, best for salads, but not soft enough for dips. Does not brown as quickly as other types.

Fuerte – somewhat lower in fat than other varieties. Grown in numerous countries.

Zutano – a Mexican variety. Does not darken as it ripens.

Fruits that are inferior for shipping are reserved to make an oil, similar in processing and grades to olive oil. The refined oil has an extremely high smoke point (520 degrees F.).

Mexican producers also package “avocado powder,” which is the ground leaves of some varieties.

Buying Tips

Most avocados are still hard and unripe in produce sections. Once ripe, they tend to bruise easily.

If you’re planning to make a dip, purchase several days ahead so the fruit will have plenty of time to soften.

Storage Tips

Place them in a paper bag or on the counter to ripen. When the skin gives with a little pressure, they’re ready to eat.

Refrigerate for a day or two at most. They cannot be frozen without the addition of lemon juice. Mash as you would for a dip and freeze for up to five months.

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by BigOven editorial team
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