Avocado

Avocado

• Background
Avocados were first cultivated in South America and migrated to Mexico later on. They were brought to Europe by Spanish conquistadors. Archaeological evidence suggests that avocados have been cultivated in South America for over 8000 years. Nowadays avocados grow in most tropical and subtropical countries, but the largest producers include Mexico, the United States, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia. It is curious that avocado is not a vegetable, but it is not exactly a fruit either despite the fact that it is generally called thus. Avocado is a member of the berry family.

• Varieties
There are more than 80 varieties of avocado. All of them have a unique flavour and texture. The most popular variety is called “Hass”. This is the only year round avocado. When the fruit is ripe, the skin becomes dark and the flesh turns pale green. Reed avocados are known as summertime variety. They are large with thick green slightly rough skin. Their flesh is buttery yellow. Zutano variety is characterised by its shiny greenish-yellow skin, pear shape, large size and pale green flesh. Fuerte and Pinkerton varieties are also among the common ones. Fuerte has a thinner skin and less buttery texture than Hass.

• Nutritional value
Avocados are truly wonderful fruits. They have a very high nutritional value, which make them good for you. They contain vitamins C and E, range of vitamins B, potassium, magnesium and dietary fibre. Avocados are also rich in folates, the nutrients that increase heart health and help to decrease blood pressure. Avocado is a great source of monounsaturated fat and it is virtually cholesterol and sodium free. Due to the fact that avocados are about 22% fats they contain as much as 300 calories per fruit.

• Choosing and ripening
Avocados do not ripen on the tree. In order to initiate ripening, they should be picked from the tree. They can be stored for 7 months or more when left on a tree, so the tree can be used as a storage unit of sorts. When choosing an avocado, cradle it in a hand. The ripe fruit will be firm but it will yield to slight pressure. If pressing leaves a dent mark it means that the fruit is very ripe and can be used for mashing. If you are not planning to use the avocados for several days, pick the ones that are firmer and do not yield to pressure.

• Freezing avocados
Avocados are suitable for freezing, so you can prepare an “emergency supply” just in case. It is best to freeze mashed avocados. Mash them with a fork, add a teaspoon of lemon juice per avocado, put it into a zip lock bag, remove the air and freeze. You can thaw frozen mashed avocado by putting it in a bowl of cool water, or just by leaving in a fridge.

• Guacamole
This avocado-based dip originated in Mexico. After the arrival of Spanish conquistadors guacamole became popular in Spain. Guacamole is relatively easy to prepare. Chop 1 small onion, 3 jalapenos and cilantro to taste. Add 2 mashed avocados, juice of 1 lime and some salt. You can adjust the amount of hot pepper according to your taste and preference. It is best to serve the dip immediately, but it can also be stored in the fridge covered with cling film.

• Avocado oil
Farmers in New Zealand and Australia recently came up with the idea of making avocado oil. It is produced in a way similar to oil and undergoes similar cold processing. However, avocado oil has higher viscosity than olive oil, which gives it more pleasant texture. This oil has a very peculiar nutty flavour and it can be used in mashed potatoes, drizzled over steamed vegetables, added to salads, soups and stews and infused with lemon, rosemary, basil of chilli. Avocado oil is rich in vitamins E, D and C, while being free of cholesterol-inducing fats.

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