By Kim Robson:
Did you know that avocados, like tomatoes, are actually a fruit? The avocado (Persea americana) is a tree
native to Mexico and Central America, and is related to cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel. The native, undomesticated variety probably coevolved with extinct megafauna. The oldest evidence of avocado use was found in a cave located in Coxcatlán, Puebla, Mexico, that dates to around 10,000 BC. The avocado tree also has a long history of cultivation in Central and South America, likely beginning as early as 5,000 BC.
While there are dozens of varieties, the Hass avocado is the most common. Producing fruit year-round, it accounts for 80% of the world’s cultivated avocados. All Hass trees are descended from a single “mother tree” raised by a mail carrier named Rudolph Hass, of La Habra Heights, California, who patented the productive tree in 1935. The mother tree, of uncertain subspecies, died of root rot and was cut down in September 2002.
Avocado has a high fat content, mostly monounsaturated (“good”) fat, and can be an important dietary staple for those with limited access to other fatty foods such as high-fat meats, fish or dairy products.
A 100-gram serving of avocado (about ¾ of one avocado) provides several B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, phytosterols, and carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. About 75% of an avocado’s energy comes from fat, most of which (67% of total fat) is monounsaturated fat as oleic acid. Other fats include palmitic acid and linoleic acid. Saturated fat content is about 14% of total fat.
Avocado eaters have better overall diet quality, nutrient levels, and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. High avocado intake was shown in one study to lower blood cholesterol levels. Specifically, after a seven-day diet rich in avocados, mild hypercholesterolemia patients showed a 17% decrease in total serum cholesterol levels. They also had a 22% decrease in both LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels, and an 11% increase in HDL (good cholesterol) levels. For obese patients on a moderate fat diet (34% of calories), additional consumption of one avocado (136 g) per day over five weeks produced a significant reduction of circulating LDL, which was attributed to the avocado’s combination of monounsaturated fats, dietary fiber, and the phytosterol beta-sitosterol.
- Guacamole is a spicy Mexican dip used in tacos and burritos, or spread on corn tortillas or toast.
- In the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam and southern India, avocados are used in milkshakes, and added to ice cream and other desserts.
- In Brazil, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, a dessert drink is made with pureed avocado mixed with sugar, milk or water. Chocolate syrup is sometimes added.
- In Morocco, a chilled avocado and milk drink is sweetened with confectioner’s sugar and hinted with orange flower water.
- In Ethiopia, avocados are made into juice by mixing them with sugar and milk or water, usually served with Vimto and a slice of lemon, or layered in a glass with multiple fruits like mangoes, bananas, guavas and papayas.
- In Australia and New Zealand, avocado is popular in sandwiches, sushi, on toast, or with chicken.
- In Ghana, it is often eaten plain on sliced bread as an open face sandwich.
- In Sri Lanka, well-ripened avocado thoroughly mashed with sugar and milk or treacle (a syrup made from palm flower nectar) is a popular dessert.
- In Haiti, avocado is served with cassava or bread for breakfast.
- In Mexico and Central America, avocados are mixed with white rice, or used in soups, salads, or as a side for chicken and meat.
- In Peru, they are consumed with tequeños as mayonnaise, served as a side dish with parrillas, used in salads and sandwiches, or as a whole dish when filled with tuna, shrimp, or chicken.
- In Chile, it is presented as a puree-like sauce with chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs; and in slices for celery or lettuce salads. The Chilean version of Caesar salad contains large slices of mature avocado.
- In Kenya and Nigeria, the avocado often is eaten alone as a fruit or mixed with other fruits in a fruit salad, or as part of a vegetable salad.
In America, avocado slices are frequently added to sandwiches, hamburgers, tortas, hot dogs and carne asada. Avocados are also regularly used in salads. Avocado is great in scrambled eggs, huevos rancheros, or omelettes, and is a key ingredient in “California” sushi rolls.
Ripe vs. Unripe?
A ripe avocado yields to gentle pressure when held in the palm of the hand and squeezed. It should be neither very firm nor very soft. A quick trick to tell if an avocado is ripe is to pull off the little “button” on the stem end. If the inside of the hole is green, it’s underripe. If it’s dark brown or black inside, it’s overripe. But if it’s a pale yellowish color, eat that avocado now!
Avocado flesh is prone to enzymatic browning, quickly turning brown after exposure to air. Lime or lemon juice can be added to avocados after peeling to prevent unsightly browning.
Green-Mom Favorite Recipes
One of my favorite ways to eat avocado is mashed with a ripe banana and spread on a piece of toast. It makes a filling yet light and cool summer snack.
Ever try avocado fries? We guarantee, your kids will LOVE them. They’re warm, crunchy, creamy, and totally addictive. Serve them with a cool sour cream-based dip, and they’ll disappear in seconds.
An easy and delicious breakfast or brunch idea is a baked egg in avocado. You can add cheese, chives, crumbled bacon, or hot sauce to make them even more tempting.
Finally, I’ve been meaning to try these deviled eggs with guacamole inside. They’re colorful spicy little mouth-bombs of avocado goodness!