Looks can be deceiving when choosing a fruit such as an avocado. The dark green wrinkled skin on the pear size avocado gives the impression the fruit is ready for the trash or compost pile. The skin is so unattractive the avocado has been nicknamed, "the alligator pear."
My first recollection of eating an avocado occurred only two to three years ago when my wife served avocados on salad. She advised me, "They are nutritious and taste wonderful." She was right; I liked the taste.
Why is the avocado so popular around the world? Primarily, the bright yellow-green color, subtle nutty flavor and creamy texture are appealing as a food by itself or when added to chicken, seafood, vegetables or fruit. Avocados lack sweetness so often are considered vegetables.
A store-bought avocado cut in half is ready to have the pit removed, peeled, then cut into pieces to add to a salad or mashed to make guacamole.
Secondarily, avocados are nutritious, containing large amounts of unsaturated fats, the heart healthy kind, fiber, antioxidants, protein, vitamins and minerals. The avocado contains 35 percent more potassium than bananas of equal weight.
Lastly, the avocado tree although grown in semi-tropical regions of the world produces a large harvest each year and is transported easily without damage. Archaeologists found evidence of avocado consumption in Mexico 10,000 years ago. The avocado, native to Mexico and Central America, was introduced to Spain in 1601, Asia in the 1850s and Florida and California in the mid 1800s. Avocados became a commercial crop in California in the 1920s. Hundreds of varieties have been developed each growing best in specific soil types and temperature ranges. The avocado grows on trees 30 feet tall.
If farmers grow several varieties each with a slightly different onset of fruit maturation, avocados can be harvested year round. Avocados, like bananas, mature on the tree but ripen when picked. This is fortunate so the fresh firm avocado can be picked and transported to a grocery store before becoming soft when ripe. If unripe avocados are placed in a paper bag for several days, gases released by each avocado hastens ripening.
A curious characteristic of the avocado is dichogamy flowering which means the same flower acts as female one day and male the following day. The flower on one variety of avocado opens on day one while the female structure called the stigma, containing ovaries, is receptive. The flower closes later, but reopens the next day as a functioning male, releasing pollen (sperm) while the female stigma is inactive. This situation leaves little or no overlap for self pollination because when pollen is released the stigma is inactive to pollen. Different varieties of avocado open on day one as males and as females on day two. Cross pollination or fertilization then can occur between these varieties but this usually yields poor quality fruit. While sex structures remain unchanged function becomes transgender. Commercial avocado orchards rely on nursery stock created by grafting twigs or scions from known high quality producing avocado trees onto disease resistant roots grown from seed.
One local grocery store sells avocados from Chile, Mexico, California and Florida. Preparation of an avocado is done cutting around the fruit from end to the end, twisting each half to separate the halves, then removing the pit with a fork. Each half can be cut again and the skin peeled by hand.
A popular use of avocado is in guacamole which can be used as a topping for a baked potato, filling an omelet, stuffing in pita bread with cheese, bacon and lettuce and dipping with corn chips. The recipe from "Cooking with Fruit" by Payne and Senior blends 2 ripe avocados mashed, 1 small chopped onion, 1 medium tomato seeded and chopped, 1 garlic clove minced, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons green chiles. Pour 2 tablespoon lime or lemon juice over the avocado mixture to retard browning of the avocado. Stir the juice into the mixture just before serving.
Many people already use and appreciate the nutritional value of the avocado but if you have missed out tasting an avocado as I had, go ahead, I think you will like it.