Essential Guide to Avocados
If I had an avocado for every time somebody said they never enjoyed eating avocados until they went vegan, then I’d have a very large pot of guacamole! There is something about this strange, exotic fruit that seems to be such an iconic staple of a plant based diet, it’s become the vegan go-to for healthy indulgence — and it’s almost as though it doesn’t truly reveal its brilliance until you go vegan. You may be mistaken for assuming that avocados are a vegetable, due to their usual pairing with savoury flavours, and their famous green colour, however they are actually a fruit (or if we’re getting technical, then they are a single-seeded berry).
Belonging to the laurel family, which also encompasses cinnamon, there are two main varieties sold in the UK — the Hass and the Fuerte. Hass avocados originate from Guatemala and have a very dark purple, pebbled and rough, thick skin. The creamy flesh makes for perfect guacamole and it has risen to the top of the avocado hierarchy. The Fuerte avocado, is also a highly popular variety, most likely down to their easy-to-peel skin. This variety is from Mexico and has a skin that is thinner, smoother and is a brighter green colour.
Avocados may be native to Central and South America, but they are now commercially produced in the US, Israel and Australia as the demand for this much loved fruit continues to grow.
Good for the diet
Avocados not only taste incredible, but they are also full of lots of the good stuff. They are a great source of monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, and are high in calories due to the high fat content. Half an avocado counts as one portion of your five-a-day, and they have more soluble fibre than other fruit, containing iron, copper and potassium. They are also a good source of B vitamin folate.
100 grams of avocado contains 19g fat, of which 12g is monounsaturated fats. Research suggests that monounsaturated fats protect against heart disease and lowers blood pressure.
When should you eat them?
Avocados are, of course, best eaten when ripe. In fact, they are notoriously difficult to eat at peak ripeness, as they take a while to ripen and then don’t stay ripe for long before going off. Leave them at room temperature for up to a week and when some pressure is applied, they should feel slightly soft. You can also put them in a fruit bowl next to a banana to ripen, but if they need to ripen, don’t put them in a fridge. You will know when the avocado has started to go off, as it’ll begin browning. This doesn’t mean you have to throw it away; you only need to dispose of the avocado if it has turned to a dark brown colour. If you’ve already cut open your avocado, but don’t want to use it all in one go, then the remaining avocado flesh will start to brown quickly due to the fruit’s high fat content, meaning they oxidise quickly when left out.
Keep them fresh
Generally speaking, the less oxygen the avocado flesh is subjected to, the less likely it is to go off quickly. However, there are various techniques that are used to try and retain the freshness of the fruit. The first of these is leaving the pit with the unused avocado flesh, and some people will even place the stone in their guacamole to retain freshness, too. Whether this actually works or not is up for debate and a more sure-fire method is to simply cover the guacamole or avocado in plastic wrap or place in an air-tight container.
The second way to keep your avo green is to squeeze lemon juice over your leftovers. The acidic nature of lemon juice will do wonders to prevent the avocado from going bad, and once again this will be even more effective if you place in an air-tight container. The final method is the use of ice water for half used avocados, something that is ideal if you’re catering for a lot of people as it can keep the avocado green for up to 4 hours.
The dangers of avocado hand
In May 2017, The Guardian released a tongue-in-cheek piece reporting on the risks of a new health hazard they aptly labelled ‘avocado hand’ — the danger of cutting yourself whilst slicing and subsequently trying to remove the stone from an avocado. It may have been a light-hearted, satirical article designed to be shared across social media, but slicing an avocado is genuinely dangerous if you’re not careful.
Slice the avocado in half with a knife, but avoid using this knife to remove the stone – unless you’re a seasoned avo pro. It is far safer to grab a small spoon to scoop out the pit rather than causing yourself an injury. As The Guardian notes, “they may well go brown during the wait in A&E.”
There are few things that you can’t do with avocado nowadays. Add to salads, smoothies, as a topping for toast, whiz into guacamole – there are no end of uses for the green goddess of fruits. Avocado is even becoming a regular in baking now too, due to its high fat content, it makes a great substitute for butter in some recipes.
The general consensus is that avocado works best as a raw ingredient; but there is a growing trend of people getting experimental and trying it roasted or grilled. Even the stone has become the latest food fad for healthy eaters trying to find the next superfood. Whether the stone is actually nutritionally beneficial is debatable, and there sure has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the stone-eating debate.
There are lots of things to love about avocados, so turn over for some recipe inspiration if you’re not too sure how to use that avocado you picked up on last week’s shopping trip.
Fancy a little out-there inspiration? Check out our recipe for Sea Salt Avocado Truffles, here!