Here’s a riddle for you: what fruit is a berry, has more potassium than a banana, has more protein than almost any fruit, and in February will be the first piece of produce featured in a Super Bowl ad?
The answer: the avocado.
In a fun-to-read article, the Atlantic explains the rise of popularity of the avocado. According to Slate magazine, in 1999, the average person in the U.S. ate just over one pound of avocado per year. In 2014, that number grew to almost six pounds per person. The avocado has arrived.
The Atlantic notes that the fruit formerly and unappetizingly named the “alligator pear” was a relative unknown until three key factors led to the accolades it now receives in this country. The first factor? A massive marketing campaign that included changing the name from alligator pear to avocado. Second, a 1997 lift on a U.S. ban of Mexico avocado imports. And third, the now mainstream status of Hispanic food in the U.S., in which avocado often plays at least a supporting, if not starring role.
While many of us love our guacamole, add it to salads, and spread it on toast and sandwiches, what do we really know about it? How many different varieties can we choose from, and how much nutritional value do they provide? In more practical terms, how do you select a ripe avocado or ripen it when it’s not?
Of avocados grown in the U.S., around 90 percent are grown in California, with the remaining from Florida. But U.S. grown avocados account for only a fraction of the avocados consumed in the U.S.; as Slate observes, around 85 percent come from Mexico and Chile.
The most common variety we see in our grocery stores is the Hass avocado, but Food Republic provides a great description of several additional varieties, including Shepard, Choquette, Tonnage, MacArthur, and others. The MacArthur variety sounds like a must-try, described as having “thick and creamy meat, with a nutty flavor,” and being “decadently smooth and buttery when fully ripe.”
Some call the avocado a superfood, which Livestrong defines as a whole, unprocessed food that’s nutrient rich for the calories consumed. The California Avocado Commission states that a single 1/5 avocado serving (which might be a little on the stingy side) substantially contributes to your recommended daily amounts of fiber and around 20 vitamins and minerals, including folate, potassium, and vitamins K, C, E, and B6.
A serving only has 50 calories—much less than probably many of us expect given the former view of the Avocado as being a high calorie food. And while that might be high if you tend to eat a whole avocado at a sitting, 70 percent of those calories come from monounsaturated fats, the good kind of fat associated with lowering cholesterol.
Is it ripe?
There’s nothing more disappointing than anticipating the taste of a ripe avocado, only to cut in and realize that it is way too firm and will have little taste. The title of this MIT Medical response to a question about how to pick a ripe avocado says it all: Please squeeze the avocado. Just apply a little pressure to the skin. If it doesn’t give at all, then let it ripen a bit more. If it is too soft, you may have missed the optimal time for eating it—but don’t give up without looking inside!
Most avocadoes sold in stores are not yet ripe, and may take up to five days to ripen. If you find that an avocado is too firm to eat, but want to shorten the ripening process, put it in a brown paper bag. Better yet, add an apple or banana to that bag—the gases these fruits emit help speed the process even more.
Get an avocado today!
So what are you waiting for? Go buy one now, and plan a meal that includes avocado for a day or two from now. After all, it’s good for you, and as Huffington Post explains, it also has a host of skin and hair benefits when used externally.
Saladmenu.com has a huge number of recipes that include avocado that you can find by doing a search for it on my site. Do that, or just make my latest recipe: Roasted Chickpeas with Greens Salad. It doesn’t say it in the title, but I promise you, there’s a whole avocado in this recipe.