It can be like the story of Goldilocks trying to find an avocado that is “just right”, but when you do, these wonderfully creamy fruits will reward you with their versatility, flavour and health benefits.
Originating from Mexico going back more than 10,000 years, the avocado only reached the rest of the world in the past 150 years or so. It’s near-worshipped in central and South American culture, where the trees bear large fruit. In these cultures where dairy foods are not part of the everyday diet, the avocado plays a big part in daily nutrition.
Did you know?
When the term superfood gets bandied about the avocado is top of the list. No other fruit has the same level of monounsaturated oil and protein. The oil content of avocados is second only to olives, making them a powerful source of energy, plus beneficial to skin and hair. The avocado contains more potassium than a banana (975mg per 100g). Plus, extracts from the leaf and seed have been used for a variety of medical applications, including treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery and as an antibiotic.
How to buy
Avocados are often picked before they are fully ripened. They will ripen quickly in warm or humid conditions, and if left next to other fruits such as bananas or kiwifruits. To choose the best fruit, cup it in your hand and give it a gentle squeeze. A little bit of give means they are ripe, too much and they are overripe. Be considerate to the avocado choosers who follow; don’t squeeze and bruise every fruit searching for the best. There is no guarantee that the fruit will be perfectly green with no brown flesh, so look for telltale signs, such as being too soft, or mold signs and imperfections or shrivelling of the skin.
How to store
A whole green avocado stores nicely in the fridge for a few days, and a ripe one can too, but as soon as they hit peak ripeness, they will disintegrate quickly. The flesh can be taken from the skin and stone and chopped up, sprinkled with lemon juice to stop oxidising and placed in freezer bags. There will be a little deterioration in the cell structure once it has been defrosted. Freezing the pulp is great, but it must be used within three months, or the flesh will burn and deteriorate.
How to grow
An avocado starts life from the large seed inside each fruit, and can take anywhere from five to 20 years before it is fruit bearing. They do well in the mild winter areas. Some hardier varieties can be grown in cooler parts but are best kept away from coastal regions. Avocados need a warm, sheltered, sunny position with plenty of room, as the tree can reach great heights and widths. The very interesting flowers open for only two days of the year – the first day they are female; the second day they are male. They rely heavily on bees and sometimes wind for pollination.
A large amount of avocados go to landfill or compost each year. Avocados that ripen too quickly are the number one victims. The second victim is the “half left” avocado that never gets eaten, dries out and goes brown. If half an avocado is all you want, drizzle the remaining half with a little lemon or lime juice, wrap in plastic or paper and place in fridge. Use within a day or two. Buy avocados, as needed, ripe but not brown. Don’t be tempted to store more than necessary. If you have an overabundance, try introducing avocados to every meal. Add to your morning smoothie. Freeze portions of avocado flesh with chilli sauce and lemon juice, ready for instant guacamole.
Try some of our favourite avocado recipes: