How Avocados are for More Than Just Guac
This piece originally appeared on Fix.com.
Up until the early 1980s or so, the avocado was generally considered a regional fruit in America. (Yes, it’s a fruit.) Before then it had mostly been enjoyed by Californians – where the fruit mainly grows in the country – and mostly those of Latino origin, too. At the time, the warm weather “alligator pear” was simply too pricey to export as well, especially to a consumer base that didn’t even know they had much need for it.
By the 1990s, though, the California Avocado Commission had found great success in pushing the massive nutritional value of its beloved fruit – they’re packed with monounsaturated “good” fat – via TV commercials and a New York PR firm. Most significantly, they had convinced Americans that avocado-packed guacamole was the perfect accompaniment for sporting-event-watching snacking. (Or maybe just “the perfect accompaniment for snacks while watching the game.”)
Nowadays, Americans consume over 80 million pounds of avocados per year. Of course, that’s mainly in the form of guacamole, that delectable dip of mashed avocados, salt, lime, and cilantro. But it doesn’t have to be. The avocado is far more versatile than you’d think. It’s tasty and healthful, and capable of becoming an even more prominent part of your life.
Finding a Good Avocado
Unlike most other fruits, avocados do not ripen on the tree, instead only softening and becoming edible after they have been harvested. Generally, a “good” avocado can be identified simply by noting the color of the fruit’s skin. In the case of the prominent Hass avocado, you should look for a dark purple, almost black, skin tone. Still, the best way to find an avocado that is ready to consume is tactilely. Gently squeeze the avocado – if you are able to lightly indent it with your fingertips, then it is probably ripe.
A Hack for Rapidly Ripening an Avocado
Sometimes, you may be desperate for guacamole that very night, yet find your store only has bright-green avocados that are hard as rocks. That’s not necessarily a problem. Place your unripe avocado in a paper bag that is free of holes and fold the bag tightly shut. The bag will trap the ethylene gas being released from the fruit, ripening the avocado at a faster pace. Adding bananas and apples to the sack will cause even more ethylene to be released, allowing for even faster ripening.
How to Prepare an Avocado
Slice gently around the avocado lengthwise, halving it. Make sure your knife fully makes it to the pit in the center, assuring a clean separation.
Firmly plunge a sturdy knife – preferably a chef’s knife – into the pit. Use the base of the knife if possible. (Caution: there is always the potential for mishaps, so hold the pitted avocado half using an oven mitt if you are concerned.) Once the knife if fully embedded in the pit, twist until the pit releases from the avocado. Slide the pit from the blade.
For guacamole and many other avocado recipes, you can simply scoop the avocado meat out of the skin. However, if you want beautiful slivers of intact avocado, you will have to carefully remove the skin. Using a smaller paring knife, slice your avocado into your desired slivers. Then, run a thin but large spoon between the skin and the flesh to dislodge the avocado slivers. You can also peel the skin directly away if that is easier.
Some hacks for preventing browning
Due to possessing the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, which can easily oxidize, fresh avocado is highly susceptible to turning brown and unsightly upon sustained contact with the air. A few methods are thought to counteract this problem, though:
- Rubbing the exposed avocado with lemon juice or another acid
- Keeping the pit in contact with the avocado at all times
- Adding water to the container where you are (briefly) storing your avocado
An avocado is not just a guacamole delivery system, and, of late, people are discovering plenty of other recipes which beautifully exhibit the taste and versatility of this fruit. [Note: avocado should not be cooked, as it will become very bitter.]
Oddly ubiquitous in hip Los Angeles restaurants, avocado toast is fairly self-explanatory. Toast thick-cut bread until it’s golden brown, then slather mashed avocado atop it. Play around with additional toppings as well – everything from tomatoes to goat cheese to smoked salmon can complement your avocado toast nicely.
Dice avocados into small cubes then toss with other vegetables. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and chopped spinach work especially well. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and even fresh dill. Top with feta cheese.
Chilled Avocado Soup
Using an immersion blender, puree avocados along with chicken or vegetable broth, lemon juice, cilantro, and sautéed onions and garlic. Strain the mixture through a mesh colander until smooth, then add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for several hours. Garnish with crostini.
Avocado Mac ‘n’ Cheese
The inherent creaminess of avocado works perfectly in making a classic comfort food even more delicious. Make a sauce by food-processing avocados with garlic, lime juice, and cilantro until the mixture is creamy. Then, pour the avocado sauce over a pot of cooked elbow macaroni. If you want to actually include cheese, feel free to also make a separate cheese sauce using cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, butter, and a little flour.
Avocado can work well as a replacement for both butter and ice cream in a variety of health-conscious desserts. Blend avocado with milk (or sweet condensed milk for a richer body), banana, and honey. Add cocoa powder if need be. Avocado milkshakes are particularly popular in Indonesia.
Noted Health Benefits of Avocados
Of course, avocados aren’t just delicious, they’re packed with health benefits you can acquire both from eating the fruit and through other methods
High in potassium – a typical avocado contains around 708 mg of potassium, or 15 percent of your recommended daily allowance, much better than the famously potassium-packed banana. Potassium promotes healthy blood pressure.
High in fiber – avocados’ high fiber contributes to weight loss by helping with gut bacteria; it also reduces blood pressure spikes.
High in oleic acid – the vast majority of an avocado’s calories are from this monounsaturated fatty acid, which reduces inflammation and can stave off cancer genes.
Amazingly, avocados even offer benefits that don’t stem from simply eating them.
As a moisturizer – avocado is a good source of skin-repairing fatty acids and has a natural moisturizing factor that can prevent wrinkles and help damaged hair as well. This is one reason it is present in many skin creams, lotions, and shampoos.
As a sunscreen – amazingly, avocado oil works as a natural sunscreen and can likewise help heal already sunburned skin.
As a psoriasis treatment – avocado oil has been known to take away the scales from a psoriasis disorder.
Reduces bad breath – avocado juice cleanses your mouth and helps remove the bacteria in your intestine and gut that often create bad breath.
Whether you are out enjoying an avocado milkshake in the sun (don't forget your avocado sunscreen!), or having avocado toast on a Sunday morning, this little green fruit will keep you both healthy and satisfied all day long!