The avocado (or alligator pear) is a fruit with green flesh that gets softer as it ripens. It surrounds a large pit (the seed), which must be cut around and removed. The pebble-textured outer skin changes from a lighter yellow-green to dark green (almost black) as it ripens. This can vary by variety, however, so firmness rather than skin color is the best way to judge ripeness.
The avocado grows in tropical climates on tall trees. Most come from Mexico, California, Florida, and Hawaii, and the peak season is late winter into early spring. This is when you’ll find the cheapest and best ones of the year. At other times of the year and during shortages, a single avocado can be expensive. The avocado can also vary in size, ranging from the small, 1-ounce “avocadito” to the massive, 5-pound queen avocado. The majority, however, are palm-sized and, like the popular Hass variety, weigh about 6 ounces.
How to Cook With Avocado
Avocado can be eaten raw and scooped straight out of the skin with a spoon. The fresh fruit is often diced or sliced and included in salads, wraps, and as a sandwich topping. Avocado is also pureed for use in dips, smoothies, and soups, and it’s easy to mash by hand. Additionally, avocado can help transform favorite desserts like brownies into vegan-friendly treats.
Since the skin is generally bitter tasting, most of the time it is discarded, though it is edible. In order to get to the flesh inside, work the knife lengthwise all the way around the pit, cutting the fruit into two equal halves. With gentle pressure, twist the two halves in opposite directions to pull them apart. The pit should stay firmly in one side and can easily be removed with a spoon. Use the spoon to separate the avocado meat from the skin, then cut it up as needed.
What Does It Taste Like?
The taste of avocado will depend on its ripeness and variety. In general, avocado has a rich, buttery taste that is simultaneously mellow and uniquely avocado. It’s the creamy texture that makes it a favorite for many people.
Some facts about Avocado
- Avocados, native to Central and South America, have been cultivated in these regions since 8000 B.C.
- The major commercial producers of avocados are the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia.
- California produces 95 percent of all avocados grown in the United States.
- The avocado is colloquially known as the alligator pear because of its shape and the leatherlike appearance of its skin.
- There are dozens of varieties of avocados, including the Hass, Fuerto, Zutano and Bacon varieties.
- The Hass variety is the most popular type of avocado in the United States. The average California Hass avocado weighs about 6 ounces (170 grams) and has a pebbled, dark green or black skin.
- The Fuerte avocado, usually available during winter months, has smoother, brighter green skin.
- The word “avocado” is derived from the Aztec word “ahuacatl,” meaning testicle.
- Avocados vary in weight from 8 ounces to 3 lbs. (226 grams to 1.3 kilograms), depending upon the variety.
- An avocado is ripe and ready to eat when it is slightly soft, but it should not have dark sunken spots or cracks. An avocado with a slight neck, rather than a rounded top, was probably tree-ripened and will have better flavor.