Avocado is a fruit of the tree Persea Americana of the Lauraceae family, which is native to the Western Hemisphere from South-Central Mexico to the Andes. Avocados are grown in numerous countries with tropical climates. Mexico is the biggest producer by 2019, accounting for 32% of the global total.
Avocado fruits, sometimes known as alligator pear, have greenish or yellowish flesh with a buttery texture and a rich, nutty taste. They are often used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Guacamole, a popular Mexican salsa, is made from mashed avocado. Green and dried avocado leaves are used to wrap tamales and as a spice for barbecues or stews in some parts of Mexico. In more savoury dishes, they are frequently seen in salads and toasts, but they are also served as a dessert in many parts of the world. For a refreshing drink, Indonesians combine them with milk, coffee, and rum. Avocados are eaten with milk and sugar by the Taiwanese. To make an avocado dessert drink, Filipinos are also known to puree them with sugar and milk. Because of their buttery quality, ripe avocados can also be cold-pressed into smooth and velvety avocado oil. This richness enables avocados to be often used in many vegan products including vegan butter, vegan mayo, and many others. Not only in foods, but the uses of avocados also extends to non-culinary products like creams for facials and body massages.
Brief History of Avocados
The name “avocado” is derived from the Aztec word ahuacatl, which means “testicle,” due to the fruit’s shape. Avocado gets its other name, “alligator pear”, because of its form and leather-like exterior.
The first avocado was discovered in a cave in Coxcatlán, Puebla, Mexico, circa 10,000 B.C. According to researchers, these plants were cultivated as early as 5,000 B.C. in Central and South America. Avocado trees were domesticated by Mesoamerican tribes such as the Inca, Olmec, and Maya. Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to consume avocados in the 16th century. Martín Fernández de Enciso was the first European to describe them when avocados were mentioned in a book he authored in 1519. Avocados were gradually imported to Europe by the Spanish and marketed to other countries, including England.
Horticulturist Henry Perrine was the first to cultivate avocados in Florida in 1833. However, they did not become a commercial crop until the early twentieth century did not start gaining popularity until the 1950s. Today, avocado can be found around the world, but the majority of avocados are grown in tropical climates, like Mexico, Indonesia, California, Hawaii, and Florida. While Mexico is the world’s biggest producer of avocados, California is the leading producer in the United States. It supplies 95 per cent of the nation’s harvest, with 85 per cent of them being the Hass variety.
Avocado Nutrition Facts
Avocados contain a lot of fat. However, they are monounsaturated fat, which is a “healthy” fat that helps lower bad cholesterol when not consumed excessively. In fact, the avocado is the only fruit that has a significant amount of beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids, which aids the reduction of cardiovascular inflammation. Avocado is also a nutrient-dense fruit that contains nearly 20 vitamins and minerals. A 100-gram portion contains around 485 milligrams of potassium, 81 micrograms of folate, 2.07 milligrams of vitamin E, and 10 milligrams of vitamin C. In addition, they also contain lutein, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados have low sugar content but happen to be high in insoluble fibre, which assists in the cycle of waste through your body. Fibre keeps your digestive system healthy and may help you avoid constipation.
Not only monounsaturated fat, but avocados also contain 25 milligrams per ounce of natural plant sterol. The regular absorption of beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols has been proven to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. For vision, avocados include two antioxidants that are beneficial to your eyes: lutein and zeaxanthin. They protect the tissues in your eyes from UV radiation damage and aid in the prevention of cataracts and macular degeneration. On top of it, avocado oil extracts have been shown in studies to alleviate osteoarthritis symptoms. Half an avocado contains around 25% of the daily required amount of vitamin K, which improves bone health by halting bone loss and preventing osteoporosis.
While avocados may have all these health benefits, they may not be as beneficial after processed into many different foods. For example, some items ordered at a restaurant such as avocado fries or avocado egg rolls are coated in batter and fried, making them much higher in both fat and calories.
Avocados should be stored at room temperature, with the understanding that they can take 4-5 days to ripen. Put them in a paper bag with an apple or banana to speed up the ripening process. They are ready to eat or refrigerate when their skin appears black or dark purple and yield to light pressure. Remember to wash them before cutting to avoid transferring dirt and bacteria from the knife to the avocado flesh.
Different Types of Avocados
There are hundreds of avocado kinds grown all throughout the world, and many hybrids exist. While knowing the kinds of cultivar is more important to those who grow avocados than on consumers, avocados are classified as A-type or B-type cultivars based on the opening times and pollination habits of their tree flowers. The most common kinds of avocados are Hass, Bacon, Pinkerton, Fuerte, Gwen, Reed, Zutano and Gwen.
Hass, Reed, Gwen, and Pinkerton are examples of the A-type cultivars; while Bacon, Fuerte, and Zutano are some of the B-type cultivars. Hass avocado accounts for the majority of avocados grown in California. It has a velvety texture and a nutty flavour, and its thick skin turns dark purple as it ripens. Its flesh is pale green in colour and has a wonderful flavour, making it ideal for creating guacamole. Unlike having a pear or oval form, the Pinkerton avocado is relatively long with a small seed and pale-green flesh. These avocados, which have a rough and thick peel, are abundant in oil and have a very pleasant nutty flavour. Zutano avocados have shiny and thin skin that can be challenging to peel. It has a low oil content but a lot of water. They also have medium-sized seeds and pale-green flesh with a subtle but pleasant flavour.