See also: Avocado Facts & Recipes; Avocado History; Avocados, Nutrient Booster; Avocado Oil; Avocado Trivia; Avocado Season in California
AVOCADOS: VARIETIES & USES
Avocados were first cultivated in South America with later migration to Mexico. It was believed that a Mayan princess ate the very first avocado and that it held mystical and magical powers. European sailors traveling to the New World used avocados as their form of butter. Avocados were first seen in the United States in the early 1800's. California is currently the largest producer of avocados stateside. There are more than 80 varieties, with the "Hass" variety dominating the crop share. A single mature avocado tree can produce more than 400 pieces of fruit in a year.
Avocados are loaded with nutrients such as dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and folate. They're also cholesterol and sodium free. Avocados contain 60% more potassium per ounce than bananas. This fruit is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat.
How to Select, Ripen, and Peel an Avocado
- Look for firm avocados if you're planning on using them later in the week, otherwise, select fruit that yields to gentle pressure for immediate use.
Color alone will not tell you if the avocado is ripe. Ripe fruit will be slightly firm, but will yield to gentle pressure.
- To speed the ripening process, place the avocado in a paper bag, and store at room temperature until ready to eat (usually two to five days). Placing an apple together with the avocado speeds up the process even more.
- Cut the avocado in half, slightly twist the two halves, separate, and remove the seed. Starting at the small end and remove the skin with a knife, or, if you prefer, you can also scoop the flesh out with a spoon.
- To retain a fresh green color, avocados should either be eaten immediately or should be sprinkled with lemon or lime juice or white vinegar.
There are several varieties of avocados and each have a unique flavor and texture. Here are some of the most common avocado varieties in the United States.
This avocado is known for its thin smooth skin and creamy pale green flesh. The skin remains green when ripe. It is available late fall through spring. Considered a medium to large sized, pear shaped fruit.
Considered a Hass to some folks, but really is a different kind of avocado. With its medium to large oval shape and its thick pebbly green skin, this avocado's skin remains green when it's ripe. Gwen varieties are available late winter through late summer.
The most common type of avocado in the United States is known for its purplish black pebbly skin. The skin darkens when the fruit is ripe and its flesh turns to a creamy pale green. This is the only year round avocado.
This variety looks like a long pear with pebbly green skin. The skin darkens when the fruit is ripe. The flesh is a creamy pale green with a small seed. This avocado is available winter through spring.
Also known as the Summertime variety avocado, it is a large round fruit with thick green slightly rough skin. The skin stays green and the flesh is a buttery yellow when the fruit is ripe. This fruit is only available in the summer and early fall.
Available fall through early winter, this avocado is characterized by its shiny, yellow green skin and pear shape. It is a large sized fruit that stays the same color when ripe and has pale green flesh.
(Variety information courtesy of California Avocado Commission.)
Make Avocado Part of Your 5 A Day Plan
- Add some avocado slices to your fruit or salad plates.
- Serve guacamole with baked tortilla chips instead of dip.
- Spice up your sandwiches with avocado wedges.
- Add diced avocados to your omelets for a different texture.
- Make a creamier smoothie by adding an avocado.
- Spread 2 Tbsp of mashed avocado on your wheat toast instead of butter.
- Top your soups and stews with diced avocados in place of sour cream.