Know Your Fruits and Veggies: Avocado

Food - avocadoBy Dawn Swidorski

The avocado is simply one of the most buttery, creamy, delectable fruits out there. Yes, you read that right an avocado is actually a fruit, belonging to the genus Persea in the Lauraceae family. The avocado is also called an Alligator Pear because of its pear-like shape and green skin. Although there are at least 7 varieties of avocado cultivated for me there is only one: the Haas avocado which is superior in texture to all other varieties.

Unlike most fruits avocados have a high fat content but don’t despair, 2/3 of these fat grams are actually health-promoting monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid.

90% of all avocados eaten in the United States are grown in California, with the remainder coming from Arizona and Mexico. Avocados are grown year-round. In fact, it takes nearly 13 months for an avocado to grow from a tiny bud to the fruit you get at the grocery store. Because avocados never ripen on the tree, avocado growers can “store” an avocado on the tree for as long as 6 months! A single avocado tree produces an average of 60 pounds or 150 pieces of fruit each year though some trees may produce up to 200 pounds.

Turns out that as many as 43% of Americans purchase avocados so you’ve probably eaten them as guacamole (a party dip favorite) or in salads or on sandwiches, or as a container for chicken or tuna salad. But it turns out that avocados aren’t just for snacks! Many cultures use the avocado for beverages, soups, desserts, even ice cream.

Ripening an Avocado

Avocados are harvested before ripening which allows them to be transported. So you most often find them in the grocery store hard as little rocks. It is possible to speed up the ripening process with the following technique.

  • To ripen an avocado, place it in a plain brown paper bag at room temperature until ready to eat (usually two to five days).
  • Adding an apple or banana in the bag accelerates the ripening process because these fruits give off ethylene gas, which is a ripening reagent.
  • Soft ripe fruit can be refrigerated until it is eaten, but not for more than two or three days.

Removing an Avocado from its skin

Use this simple process:

1. Start with a ripe avocado and cut it lengthwise around the seed.

2. Rotate the halves to separate.

3. Remove the seed by sliding the tip of a spoon gently underneath and lifting out. (Another common seed-extraction method – striking the seed with a knife and twisting – requires some skill – so use this method at your own risk!).

4. From there you can slice or dice the fruit in the skin (depending on how you will use) and carefully scoop out with a spoon.

5. Sprinkling the cut surfaces with lemon or lime juice will help prevent discoloration.

6. If you want avocado halves: follow steps 1 – 3 the place the cut side down and carefully remove the skin with a knife or your fingers, starting at the small end.

Growing an Avocado Tree

The avocado also comes with an additional bonus. Just like the sweet potato the avocado can be grown into a houseplant or tree. So be sure not to throw out that seed! Just follow these simple steps.

1. Wash the seed removing any remaining fruit.

2. Press three toothpicks into the seed about halfway

3. Suspend the seed on the toothpicks broad end down over a water-filled glass to cover about an inch of the seed.

4. Put it in a warm place out of direct sunlight and replenish water as needed. You should see roots and stem sprout in about two to six weeks.

5. When the stem is six to seven inches long, cut it back to about three inches.

6. When the roots are thick and the stem has leafed out again, plant it in a rich humus soil in a 10-1/2″ diameter pot, leaving the seed half exposed.

7. At this point you should move the plant to a sunny location. The more sunlight, the better.

8. Give it frequent, light waterings with an occasional deep soak. Generally, the soil should be moist but not saturated. Yellowing leaves are a sign of over-watering. If this occurs let the plant dry out for a few days before resuming a regular watering schedule.

9. If leaves turn brown and fry at the tips, too much salt has accumulated in the soil. Let water run freely into the pot and drain for several minutes.

10. When the stem is 12 inches high, cut it back to 6 inches to encourage the growth of new shoots.

11. Don’t expect your house plant to bear fruit. Although this does occur occasionally, it usually requires grafting. A plant grown from seed will take anywhere from five to 13 years to flower and bear fruit. Fruit on trees grown from seeds are seldom good to eat.

Most people think that avocado’s are only for dips, sandwiches and salads – but here are two yummy recipes just for dinner!

California Avocado Fettuccine – This one is vegetarian friendly

And

Roasted Garlic Avocado Pasta

The recipe calls for cubed chicken – which I just find too institutional so I always opt to shred mine.