Here’s a riddle for you: what fruit is a berry and has more potassium than a banana? And 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 avocados 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 unappealingly named the “alligator pear”. It was relatively unknown until three key factors led to the accolades it now receives in this country. The first factor? A massive marketing campaign. It changed the name from “alligator pear” to avocado.
Second, a 1997 lift on a U.S. ban of Mexico avocado imports. 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? 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, because around 85 percent come from Mexico and Chile. The most common variety we see in our grocery stores is the Hass avocado. 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. It also contributes 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 in one 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 avocados sold in stores are not yet ripe, and could take up to five days to ripen. If you find that an avocado is too firm to eat, but 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 up the process even more.
Get an avocado today!
So what are you waiting for? Go buy an avocado or two now, and plan a meal that includes avocado to eat within the next few days. After all, it’s good for you. As Huffington Post explains, it also has a host of skin and hair benefits when used externally. Allweeat.com has a huge number of recipes that include avocado. You can find them by doing a search for it on my site. Do that, or just make my latest recipe: Simple Roasted Chickpea Salad with Greens. It doesn’t say it in the title, but I promise you, there’s a whole avocado in this recipe.