The avocado is a widely popular stone fruit that grows well in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Avocados were domesticated and cultivated since prehistory, and were known and loved by the Incas and Aztecs. Our word for the avocado originates from the Aztec’s language who called the fruit, aoacatl. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in South and Central America, they took note of the peculiar stone fruit popularly used by the natives. The first mention by Europeans of the avocado was by Pedro de Cieza de Leon, writing in the mid-sixteenth century, who called the fruit aguacate, a Spanish approximation of the original Aztec word. As the fruit spread throughout the European world, its name evolved and changed. In the Spanish speaking countries and colonies, it became known as abogado. In French, it became the avocatier. In a document written by George Washington he refers to the avocado as an “agovago pear.” In various parts of the world, the fruit gained the moniker of alligator pear. In the United States, when avocado cultivation and use gained popularity, there was a long debate on what the fruit should be called. In the western US, especially in California, the name “alligator pear” was the most popular. In the East, it was largely known as the avocado. Eventually, the popularity of alligator pear waned, and avocado was accepted coast to coast, although, many Californians insisted on a more traditional spelling of the word, either aguacate, or ahuacate. Today, there are a wide variety of avocados available, but the Hass avocado is by far the most popular. Hass avocado trees produce fruit year round and they are hardier than many other avocado varieties. The flavor of the Hass avocado is slightly nutty, and incredibly creamy, thanks to its high oil content. The Hass avocado first hit the market in 1936, and was cultivated by a postman named Rudolph Hass. The original “mother tree” of the Hass avocado variety remained productive until 2002 when it was cut down due to root rot.
From guacamole to egg dishes to sandwich toppings, avocadoes have a multitude of delicious applications. A popular sandwich at delis and lunch joints is the BLAT, a bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato. The avocado takes the classic BLT to a delicious new level by adding that creamy richness. Avocado can be a tasty addition to huevos rancheros. The creaminess of the avocado can help temper the heat of the green or red chili used in huevos rancheros. A simple, flavorful homemade guacamole includes fresh avocado, Roma tomato, garlic, white onion, jalapeno, lime juice, salt and pepper. Avocados are a wonderful addition to almost any Mexican or Tex-Mex dish, including fajitas, fish tacos, and chimichangas.
A fresh avocado will be very firm to the touch, and will have few, if any, blemishes on its rough skin. The riper an avocado becomes, the softer the fruit will feel. Once it becomes very soft and mushy, it is no longer good and should be discarded. Under ripe avocados will be very hard. These can be left out at room temperature to ripen, which will take one to three days, depending on how under ripe it is. Fully ripe avocados should be kept refrigerated, where they will last about a week. The easiest method to peel and slice an avocado is to use a knife. Cut into the avocado lengthwise, until you hit the stone. Then, using the stone as a guide, cut around the avocado until the fruit can be separated into halves. To remove the stone, carefully chop into the stone with the knife blade so that it sticks into it, then turn the knife sideways and pull out the stone. While the flesh is still inside the skin, slice through the flesh to create either long slices or, cut a crosshatch pattern to dice the fruit without cutting through the skin. Then, use a spoon to separate the flesh from the skin. The flesh will brown quickly when exposed to air, but this can be slowed by mixing the fruit with lime or lemon juice.