Avocados are a tropical fruit native to Central America and parts of Mexico and South America. Avocados have been cultivated in these regions since 8,000 B.C.
The scientific name is Persea americana which is in the flowering plant family called Lauraceae
Avocado comes from the Aztec, Nahuatl dialect, word ahucatl meaning 'testicle' in reference to the shape of the fruit. Guacamole comes from ahuacatl-molli meaning 'avocado sauce'.
Avocados were known by the Aztecs as "the fertility fruit".
There are more than 500 varieties of avocados grown worldwide
The rich and creamy avocado has been called the "chocolate" of fruits.
The Avocado is also known as aguacate (Spanish), butter pear or alligator pear in reference to the rough, leather-like appearance of some cultivars.
The pit, seed, leaves, bark can be toxic to some animals, particularly birds, and also to some people.
The avocado is a climacteric fruit (the banana is another), which means that it matures on the tree but ripens off the tree.
Once picked, avocados ripen in a few days at room temperature. Avocados will ripen faster if stored with other fruits such as bananas, because of the influence of ethylene gas.
Tips on Eating Avocados
Avocados should be quite soft before eating. A ripe avocado will yield to a gentle pressure when held in the palm of the hand and squeezed.
A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit basket at room temperature within a few days. As the fruit ripens, the skin will turn darker.
Avocados should not be refrigerated until they are ripe. Once ripe, they can be kept refrigerated for up to a week.
Squeeze or wipe on some lemon or lime juice on the exposed flesh surfaces of the avocado to prevent discoloration due to oxidation by air. If you have no lemon or lime juice, use vinegar or some other mild acid. Covering the avocado with plastic wrap will also help prevent discoloration.
If the avocado has dark sunken spots, cracks, or mold, it would be best not to eat it unless starvation is a concern.
Cook Street School of Fine Cooking offers an accelerated Professional Food & Wine Career Program, recreational cooking and wine classes for students of all skill and experience levels.
Health and Nutritonal Benefits
Avocados are high in amino acid proteins, dietary fiber, Folate, Vitamins D, E, and K, and potassium.
Avocados have 60% more potassium than bananas. Potassium, a mineral, helps regulate blood pressure and guards against circulatory diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Avocados have the highest fiber content of any fruit; 75% of which is insoluble and 25% is soluble fiber.
Avocados also have Vitamin C and B6, zinc, copper, magnesium, Manganese, iron, phosphorus, Niacin, Thiamin, Riboflavin, and, pantothenic acid.
Avocados contain carotenoid lutein, a natural antioxidant, which some studies suggest may help maintain healthy eyes.
Avocados contain beta-sitosterol, a natural plant sterol, that may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Avocados have unsaturated fats, which are known to be important for normal growth and development of the central nervous system and brain.
Avocados have Phytonutrients which may help prevent many chronic diseases.
Avocados act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha- and beta-carotene as well as lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit.
The avocado is virtually the only fruit that has monounsaturated fat which are fatty acids such as oleic acid. Oleic acid is known to significantly protect against breast cancer and prostate cancer. Mono unsaturated fats help lower the bad LDL cholesterol and raise the healthy HDL cholesterol. Saturated fats and trans fats are the bad fats. Most avocados contain approximately 15% fat, most of which is mono unsaturated fat.