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About

The avocado is a uniquely American fruit originating in south-central Mexico sometime between 7000 and 5000 B.C. The first evidence of cultivation of this wild fruit by the Aztecs dates back to 500B.C. Their introduction to the United States came much later in the late 1800’s. Today over 90% of our domestic avocados are grown in California with over 60 % of that production coming from San Diego County. In fact, Fallbrook, California just north of San Diego claims the title of “Avocado Capital of the World.” Florida is the other domestic source for avocados and we also import fruit from Chile and Mexico. There are nearly 500 recognized varieties of avocados but relatively few are grown commercially. Listed below are the main commercial varieties of avocados.

Varieties

Bacon: This is a delicate tasting, green-skinned variety that is available late fall to early spring. It is oval in shape with a medium to large seed. It stays green when ripe.

Fuerte: Another variety that is available during the winter. This pear-shaped fruit remains green when ripe. The Fuerte has been overtaken by the Hass avocado as a favorite variety.

Pinkerton: This is a premium variety with excellent taste. It is pear-shaped with a small seed. Available from late fall to early spring; its skin becomes a darker green when ripe.

Zutano: This early winter variety is one of the first to be harvested in September. It has shiny, yellow-green skin and pale green flesh. This delicate tasting variety retains its skin color when ripe.
Reed: This is a summer variety. It is round in shape with pebbly skin and a medium seed. The fruit retains its green color when ripe.

Hass: The Hass variety is far and away the most popular and well-known of all the varieties. It is oval in shape with thick pebbly skin that turns from green to almost black when ripe. The flesh has a rich, nutty flavor and creamy texture when ripe. It is available year-round.

Selection

When you are selecting avocados look for fruit that is free of cuts or dark blemishes or bruises. The ripeness of the fruit should be taken into consideration based on when it will be used. Besides color change as an indicator with the Hass variety, ripe fruit will yield to gentle pressure when squeezed in the palm of your hand.

Storage:

Ripe fruit should be stored in the refrigerator but not for more than a few days. Unripe fruit can be stored on the kitchen counter. This fruit can be ripened in 2 to 5 days by placing it in a paper bag at room temperature. Check them daily for ripeness. Ripe avocados can be pureed and frozen for up to four months.

Preparation and Uses

Ripe avocados can be used in any number of ways but two of the most popular are sliced on a fresh garden salad and, of course, in guacamole. Before you prepare an avocado be sure to thoroughly wash the fruit before cutting then start by slicing a ripe piece of fruit lengthwise around the seed. Slice down to the seed but not through it. Gently twist the two halves to break them apart then with a spoon lift out the seed. At this point the flesh can be removed in one of two ways. The fruit can be placed cut side down and the skin carefully peeled away with a knife or simply scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Avocados will oxidize and turn brown quite rapidly so to prevent this you may want to squirt lemon juice on the exposed surfaces.

Nutrition

Avocadoes are rather high in calories at 50 calories per ounce- the equivalent of two slices. However, they contain more than 25 essential nutrients as well including vitamin E, vitamin K, potassium, folic acid and fiber. While avocadoes are known for their high fat content, it is the preferred monounsaturated variety.

A word of caution, avocadoes should not be feed to animals. All parts of the avocado plant- leaves, bark, and fruit- are highly toxic to non-human species.