Foods You Should Know: The Avocado

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The avocado is in the middle of a renaissance in North America. The growing influence of Mexican and Central American cuisine in the United States and Canada has made this unique fruit a grocery store staple.They are creamy textured, mildly flavoured, vibrantly coloured and exceptionally healthy, but what do we know about avocados other than the obvious?

The word Avocado comes from the garbling of spanish word Aguacate by english speaking people who eventually called it the Abogato pear. Or Lawyer pear, which might be the worst name every given to a non-poisonous food stuff in the history of food. Further garbling got the name to the Alligator Pear which was slightly better and was somewhat descriptive of the appearance of the fruit. Eventually, through many iterations the word Avocado became the common parlance though I would have preferred the names gangrenous testicle or smoothy roughskin*.

The oldest evidence of the use of Avocado can be traced back to 10,000 BC in prehistoric Mexican caves. The first known written reference to Avocados were in a Spanish account of the new world in 1519. Since the 1700’s the Avocado has been cultivated all over the world. From south east asia to the mediterranean because of it’s ease of cultivation, culinary popularity and high nutritional value.

The avocado’s ability to grow in many tropical and subtropical climates makes it a great world wide crop. The trees need temperate climates, loose soil and they can stand slightly saline water. Like the banana or plantain the avocado matures on the tree but ripens off the tree. Usually this ripening process takes 1-2 weeks but can be dramatically increased with cold storage. This allows the avocado to travel well as compared to many other fruits. An avocado tree also is easily grafted which means you can have fruits of varying degrees of ripeness at all times of the year if you are in the right climate. Instead of set growing seasons an avocado tree can produce fruit year round. Due to the relatively slow ripening process of the avocado there have been chemical processes developed that can hasten the fruit’s ripening just as cooling can slow it. This allows suppliers to send ripe or very close fruit to market all of the time.

Generally a consumer can tell if an avocado is ripe with a gentle squeeze. The softer the fruit the more ripe it is. When I purchase avocados I like to select a few ripe ones to use sooner, and a few under-ripe ones to use a few days from my purchase. When preparing an avocado, there are a few things to take notice of but also understand. Once you remove the skin of an avocado the creamy fruit inside will oxidize very quickly. This is the same process that gives you brown apples but it happens much quicker and that beautiful green colour will quickly turn a much less appetizing brown. A spritz of citrus can counter act the chemical process of oxidation or a coating of oil can protect the surface of the fruit from the air. How you are preparing the fruit would depend on the method used. Or you can let it go brown, I personally like to enjoy what I eat with my eyes so I like to protect the colour of avocado.

When it comes to being a great health food, the avocado had an interesting recent history. The fruit, which is naturally high in fat and calories the avocado was vilified by diet plans. Though when you look at the kinds of good fat the avocado contains you start to see a different angle. Its high levels of monounsaturated fat and low levels of saturated fat as well as high levels of about a half dozen rare fatty acids makes the avocado a positive source of fat. In other words, if you daily fat content is comprised of the types of fats that come from avocado you will be much healthier than someone with the same fat intake in their diet but with a lower quality fat composition. Avocados also have higher potassium levels than bananas and are a great source of vitamin K, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E. It has also been found that avocados help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol and there have been some anti bacterial properties found in avocado seed oil.**

The culinary use of avocado has become pretty widespread and I am not going to go over 1000 words on avocados so I will give you a few of my favourite uses for the fruit and some recipes.

1. Avocado Margaritas…do you like drinking? Do you like smoothies? Do you like the idea of getting off your ass drunk while drinking tequila and avocado? Well click this link for the recipe.

2. Civeche…there are many civeche recipes that don’t use avocado. Those are not inherently incorrect but I personally like to ignore them. Try this!

3. Tijuana Avocado Peanut Salsa…not all salsas are tomato based, and this one native to the Città di Burro Mostra*** is delicious use of Avocado.

*Greena Dunham was the third tag to this joke, that maybe 10% of my readers would get.

**Avocado seed oil is another very interesting product that is becoming more popular in the culinary world. It has a very high smoke point, but also is quite rich and flavourful like olive oil. It’s kind of the superman of seed oil.

***All of my spanish speaking fans will hopefully get this one.