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Avocado: Kitchen Basics

Avocado slices1

Avocado slicesAvocadoes have a rich buttery textured flesh with a slightly nutty flavor and can be eaten as a vegetable or a fruit.

There are both winter and summer harvest avocadoes. Winter harvest avocadoes are available at your farm market now.

There are dozens and dozens of avocado varieties spread around the world. The variety you are most likely to find in markets now is “Fuerte” which is a winter harvested, medium-sized avocado with smooth bright green skin.

Two other winter harvest avocado varieties are “Bacon” which is similar in size and color to “Fuerte”, and “Pinkerton” which is larger.

“Hass” another well-known avocado variety with dark purple, almost black, pebbly skin is a summer harvest avocado. If you find “Hass” avocadoes in the market this time of year, they have probably traveled from the Southern Hemisphere where it is summer.

There are two avocado harvests in California every year: from November to March and from September to October. The “Fuerte” is harvested in the winter and the “Hass” during the summer.

Avocadoes come in varying shapes, colors, and sizes depending on the variety. There are those that stay green when ripe, like “Fuerte”, and those that turn black at maturity, like “Hass”.

Most avocadoes are pear-shaped but some are round. An avocado tree, which is a tropical or subtropical evergreen, can grow to 40 feet tall. Its leaves are waxy and oval.

Types of Avocados

There are three original forerunners or races of the avocado species:

Mexican type avocadoes are plum-sized, smooth-skinned, and purple or black colored fruit that matures in autumn. The varieties “Bacon” and “Mexicola” are Mexican type avocadoes. These are hardier than the other types. They are oval and have a thin, green, glossy skin.

Guatemalan type avocadoes bear larger fruits, have rough skins, and their color varies from green to purple to black. The fruit matures in spring or early summer and stores well. “Hass”, “Gwen”, “Nabal”, and “Pinkerton” are Guatemalan type avocadoes.

West Indian type avocadoes have a very large fruit up to 2 pounds (1 kg) or more with smooth skin. They are usually light green and of medium thickness.

“Fuerte” is a Guatemalan-Mexican hybrid. “Zutano” is another popular hybrid.

Preparing and Serving Avocados

Choose. Select avocadoes that are heavy for their size, not too hard and free of blemishes. An avocado is ready to eat when it yields to the touch, but is not soft. Avocadoes that are too soft will be overly ripe. Overripe avocado flesh will be brown and stringy.

It is best to buy avocadoes a few days before you need them. An unripe avocado will ripen in 4 to 7 days at room temperature.

Store. Store unripe avocadoes at room temperature until they ripen. To speed ripening store an avocado at room temperature wrapped in a newspaper or in a closed paper bag pierced with small holes to allow gases to escape. Once ripe, the avocado will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Prepare. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise. If the flesh clings to the pit, twist the two halve gently in the opposite direction. Then the pit can be removed with a knife or with a spoon.

To make removing the peel easier, cut the avocado in half, remove the stone with the skin still on, cut through the flesh and the skin to make slices. Then strip off the peel.

Avocado flesh will darken when exposed to the air. To prevent discoloration, sprinkle the flesh with lemon juice or vinegar.

Serve. Avocadoes are usually eaten raw. They do not cook well.

You can add avocado slices to sandwiches and salads and to hot and cold soups.

Avocado halves can be stuffed with seafood or chicken.

Avocado facts and trivia. Botanically the avocado is a fruit, but it is eaten as both a fruit and a vegetable.

The avocado is native to Central and South America where it has been cultivated for at least 7,000 years.

The word avocado comes from the Aztec word abuacatl which is roughly translated as “testicle”. The reference is undoubted to the fruit’s pear shape. Spanish explorers took the avocado to Europe in 1527. There the Aztec word abuacatl was said to be unpronounceable and became ahuacate or aguacate and was further modified to the pronounceable “alligator” and to “avocado” in California in 1915.

Avocadoes are also called “alligator fruit” and “butter pear”, a reference to the consistency of its flesh.

The botanical name for the Guatemalan family of avocado is Persea americana. The botanical name for the Mexican family of avocado is Persea drymifolia.

Also of interest:

How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Avocados

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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