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SPANISH AVOCADO AN AZTEC LEGACY ON THE COSTA DEL SOL – SPAIN
(See Recipes Below) Among the many fruits and vegetables Spanish conquistadors brought from their forays in the Americas, avocado was the slowest to catch on. Tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, ands cocoa were some that became popular quickly. Spain today is the single largest European avocado producer, and exports to many countries. The Costa del Sol, along the Mediterranean Sea from Granada to Malaga is the largest producer, though the Canary Islands also produce avocados.
Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, a chronicler of conquistadors, in 1526, mentions avocados in his reports favourably, describing the buttery texture and pleasant taste. Yet it took almost 5000 years for the avocado to catch on in Europe!
Indigenous to Mexico, avocado was cultivated by Aztecs. There are a little less than 500 known varieties, but today, commercially only handful enjoys popularity. Hass is the most popular, followed by Fuerte, Bacon, Reed, and Pinkerton Avocado trees are undemanding and grow in warm regions but can withstand – 2C (28 FG) temperature. The upper range of the temperature scale is (95 F =35 C). The most interesting aspect of avocado is that it can be picked stone-hard and will ripen off the tree. It can be left on the tree for up to six months and will not ripen.
After picking, the fruit is refrigerated, rinsed with chloride enriched water, sorted, packed and shipped in refrigerates trucks mainly to France, Germany, Italy, and other European countries. French like small avocados, Germans large and smooth (Fuerte), whereas the Swiss prefer medium sized.
When Spaniards first encountered Aztecs and were served ahuacacauahuitl or testicle fruit in Nuahtl (Aztec), they could not pronounce it, and bastardised the word to aguacate, which the English corrupted to avocado.
Avocado is nutritious and easy to digest. It contains oil, (30 percent comparable to olive oil –monounsaturated), vitamins E, C and beta carotene, and potassium. In short, it is healthy!
Avocado is also versatile. When Israel started growing avocado trees, it was decided to target France, and considerable marketing efforts resulted in the French to become the highest per capita consumers with over 1.1 kg. in Europe. Today Spanish exporters are reaping the fruits pf Israeli marketing, as the former can deliver faster and less expensively than the latter.
Avocado can be used in many ways – as a shell for shrimp or seafood cocktails, in guacamole, in salads, as a paste, in salsas, stews, on its own with a pinch of salt. In New Zeeland some avocado producers are now extracting the oil and marketing it successfully and salad dressing oil. What the inventive mind of cooks and clever marketers will think of next remains to be seen!
Popular avocado sizes in Europe 8½ - 10½ and 6½ - 9½)
Avocados with Prosciutto
• 7 oz of prosciutto, thinly sliced • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil • freshly ground black pepper • lemon juice • salt • chives • coriander • olive oil for drizzling
Lay out ham and sprinkle with black pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Let it marinate for 30 minutes.
Halve avocados and remove stone. Scoop out the flesh, sprinkle with lemon juice.
Placer avocado balls inside shell interspersed with prosciutto. Sprinkle with chives and coriander. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.