That’s Spanish for Welcome Friends. Why am I greeting you in Spanish? It’s because I’m an avocado and we originated in Mexico and Central America where Spanish is the national language. My Mexican name is aguacate but you can call me Avo, if you like.
These days, my friend, we’re grown all around the globe and are no longer just the stars of Mexican food – you’ll find us in Italian pasta dishes, Japanese sushi and Australian seafood salads too. We don’t mind being adopted by the world though – we Mexicans are generous types.
Although we’re happy to blend in with other foods we’re quite unique in many ways. Let me tell you about myself, my friend – we should get to know each other better. To begin with I’m a fruit (hey, hombre, watch yourself, remember macho is a Spanish word!) but I’m eaten like a vegetable – like chunky potatoes and brawny beans. I pack a punch in the nutrition stakes because I’m one of only a few fruits to contain fat – the special kind that’s really good for you – I’ll tell you all about that later.
In Mexico we believe in ma²ana, which means don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow. It’s a philosophy we avocados love. We mature slowly and steadily on the tree but put off ripening until we’ve been picked. It saves a lot of time and effort and it means you get to eat us at our best.
We grow on an attractive evergreen tree that stands 8-12 metres high and 13 metres wide and, oh, it has a beautiful crown of smooth, glossy, dark green leaves which shade us from the sun during siesta time.
We come in different shapes from oval to pear depending on which variety we’re from. Our average size is about 10cm long and our skin looks like fine leather (remember it was designed to withstand the fierce Mexican sun). Some of us have quite smooth skin while others have a rough, pebbled appearance, and while most of us are glossy green, some varieties do turn purplish-black when ripe. But green or dark, rough or smooth, we’re all the same inside. At our heart lies a large inedible seed surrounded by soft, buttery, creamy-white to greenish-yellow flesh which has a delicate nutty taste – it’s what makes us irresistible!
In Australia we’re at our best from March to November.
Did you know?
• We’re in The Guiness Book of Records as the most nutritious fruit known to man. We’re the best energy source in the fruit category
• The Aztecs considered us to have aphrodisiac properties
• Mexican excavations have revealed our history as dating back 7000 years.
In Australia we are sold by variety. Let me introduce them to you.
I’m distinctly pear-shaped with a slightly pebbled, glossy, green skin.
I’m also pear-shaped, but more oval than Fuerte, with a shorter, fatter neck. My skin is glossy, green and almost smooth.
I’m a smaller variety, more oval in shape than Fuerte or Sharwil, with a coarse pebbly skin that turns purplish-black when I mature.
We’re not a specific variety but small immature fruit in which the seeds have not formed. We’re like a small green cucumber and all parts of us can be eaten.
Other varieties include: Bacon, Hazzard, Pinkerton, Rincon, Shepard, Wurtz, Reed.
Why Avocados Are Good To Eat
How can something that tastes so great be so good for you, I hear you ask. Well, my friend, let me explain.
• As I told you before we’re unusual in being one of only a few fruits to contain fat. But our fat is not a problem because it’s 'good fat’ – the type that keeps you healthy. It’s a source of essential fatty acids and is mostly the same kind of healthy fat found in olive oil.
• We’re a good source of vitamin E which keeps the red cells in your blood healthy and helps prevent damage to the membranes that encircle and protect every cell in the body.
• We’ve lots of a dietary fibre which helps move food through your body efficiently so you don’t get constipated. We’re a good source of vitamin B6. This vitamin is needed for the nervous system, for healthy skin and to produce energy in the body.
• 100g avocado has 860 kJ
How They are Grown and Harvested
We grow on evergreen trees. Evergreen means the tree doesn’t shed its leaves in the autumn. Our parent trees need to grow in an area that has excellent drainage, porous soil and is sheltered from strong winds and frosts. They prefer a climate that is tropical – cool winters and hot humid summers.
Avocado trees can be planted at any time of year. As they grow the lower branches should be pruned to prevent us from hanging on the ground. The tree will begin to produce fruit after three years and most varieties will bear fruit every year.
Our parent trees have different shapes depending on variety – some are tall, upright trees while others have branches that hug the ground.
Although most growers still pick us by hand it is becoming more popular to use a mechanical harvester for the taller trees.
In most retail stores we can be bought at two different stages.
Mature and firm – often four to five days away from being ripe.
Ripe and ready – to eat immediately. In this case we must be carried home carefully to avoid bruising.
How to Keep Avocados
Ripening us at room temperature can take 4-7 days. When we’re ripe we yield to gentle pressure at our stem end. Use us within 2 days.
You can speed up the ripening process by placing us in a brown paper bag with a banana and keeping us at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
Prime Growing Areas
History of Avocados
As I mentioned before we come from the highlands of Mexico and Central America and the lowlands of Columbia and South America.
We were first discovered by Europeans in the 16th century when the Spanish Conquistadors invaded the lands of the Incas and Aztecs and found avocados used as a staple part of their diets.
The first avocados in Australia were grown from seeds brought in from the West Indies at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1928, the first trees were planted in the Sunraysia District, now a major avocado growing area.
Australia has now become a leading producer of our fine avocado family with Queensland growing the largest quantities, and New South Wales and Victoria both producing significant amounts.
Fun Ways to Eat and Cook Avocados
We’re a very versatile fruit, equally delicious with vegetables as well as other fruits. Just cut in half, remove the stone and eat with your favourite salad dressing or for something sweet try redcurrant jelly. If not eating straight away brush the cut surfaces with lemon or lime juice to stop us browning.
We can be stuffed, or simply remove our skin and add us sliced or diced to scrambled eggs, soups, salads, dips, sauces, sandwiches or crepes. We can also be served warm or cold. If served warm, add just before serving. If cooked it will have a bitter taste.
Try these easy and delicious avocado recipes:
Hot Potato with Avocado
Mash an avocado and mix with some natural yoghurt or sour cream. Cut top off hot, whole potato or simply cut it in half and spoon on avocado, chopped cooked bacon pieces and chopped chives.
Avocado and Strawberry Salad
Arrange a sliced avocado on a plate of lettuce leaves with snow pea sprouts and halved strawberries. Drizzle with your favourite salad dressing and roasted macadamia nuts.
Avocado and Chicken Tacos
Chop avocado and mix with cooked, diced chicken, chopped chives and pecan nuts. Stir through some mayonnaise and chopped parsley. Fill taco shells, eat and enjoy!