Scientific Name: Persea americana
DESCRIPTION OF AVOCADO
The avocado (Persea americana), also known as palta or aguacate (Spanish), butter pear or alligator pear, is a tree native to the Caribbean, Mexico, South America and Central America, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae. The name "avocado" also refers to the fruit (technically a large berry) of the kupa shell that contains a pit (hard seed casing) which may be egg-shaped or spherical.
The Avocado tree is a tropical evergreen tree distantly related to the Laurel bush (bay leaf bush) and to the cinnamon tree (in fact, Avocados are susceptible to a root rot disease called Phytophthora cinnamomi.) Leaves of some Mexican varieties of Avocado trees are even aromatic enough to be used in cooking.
Left on its own, the tree could grow up to 60 to 80 feet tall, but in orchards its height is kept down to about half of that to make the fruit easier to harvest. The trees need anywhere from 4 to 7 years before they will start fruiting in any useful quantity.
Avocados are a commercially valuable crop whose trees and fruit are cultivated in tropical climates throughout the world (and some temperate ones, such as California and Florida), producing a green-skinned, pear-shaped fruit that ripens after harvesting. Trees are partially self-pollinating and often are propagated through grafting to maintain a predictable quality and quantity of the fruit. After the seed is planted, it takes about two to six weeks to sprout.
Unlike many fruits which will not ripen after they are picked, Avocados will not ripen until they are picked. Consequently, growers simply let some varieties, such as Reed Avocados, sit on the trees until needed. Picking them hard probably actually suits producers just fine, as it makes them less of a worry to ship. The Avocados are shipped in coolish containers so that they do not ripen during shipping, and arrive ready at the stores for final ripening at home by consumers.
When fully ripe, the hard flesh will be soft and spreadable, almost like butter once mashed. The flesh is usually deep green near the skin, but lightening to shades of yellow or green towards the stone (the seed) in the center.
TYPES OF AVOCADOS
There are 3 basic families of Avocados:
- Mexican (Persea americana var. drymifolia). Mexican descendants can produce the smallest of Avocados with thin purple or black skins and yellowish-green flesh. Leaves of some varieties can be used in cooking.
- Guatemalan (Persea americana var. guatemalensis). Guatemalan descendants tend to produce warty skins that are green, black or purple, and larger than Mexican descendants, but not as large as West Indian ones.
- West Indian (Persea americana var. americana). West Indian descendants tend to produce fruit that is the largest of all Avocados with smooth, glossy, lighter green skins (the term "West Indian" is probably too late to change now, but it is hopelessly inaccurate: this type of Avocado appears actually to have originated on other side of Central America, in lowland areas on the Pacific Coast.) These Avocados tend to be lighter in overall oil content.
Any of the 100s of varieties available today will have descended from these families. Some of the varieties do not even have real names yet, just being referred to by terms such as HX38 or NB86.
If you are in North America, your Avocados probably mostly come from Florida or California. Since 1914, California Avocado growers have lobbied vigorously to keep Mexican-grown Avocados out of the American market on grounds of pest and disease transfer. There are some reports that, while continuing their lobbying efforts, some have as of 2000 also set up in Mexico and are importing Mexican Avocados to America under their American brand names. Which you would likely find quite annoying if you were Mexican.
If you are in the UK, your Avocados probably come from South Africa during the summer months, and from Israel or Spain the rest of the year (Marks & Spencers introduced Israeli Avocados to the UK). Avocados tend to be eaten steadily throughout the year in the UK, while in Europe preference for them declines during the summer.
If you are in Australia, your Avocados probably come from within the country or South Africa.
Here is a brief listing of varieties being produced in some countries:
- Spain: Bacon.
- South Africa: Edranol, Fuerte, Ryan.
- Israel: Fuerte, Hass, Ettiner, Nabal, Benik, Ettinger, Nabal, Pinkerton, Reed, Wertz.
- California: Most varieties grown in California are of the Guatemalan and Mexican type, as they are better suited to the California climate. Best known are Hass and Fuerte.
- Florida: Most Avocados grown in Florida are varieties of the West Indian type (smooth skins), as they are better suited to the Florida climate. Though they are larger and less expensive than the Californian varieties, Florida varieties do not have the nice, nutty taste that California ones do. Florida varieties have less fat in them than California varieties (never mind that it is a beneficial kind of fat that our bodies need), so Florida has tried to use this one so-called advantage in their favor; some brands are even marketed under names such as Lite Avocado and Brooks Lite. The reason they contain less fat ounce for ounce compared to California Avocados is that the Florida Avocados are larger and more watery, so the fat is spread out over a larger fruit.
THE CALIFORNIA AVOCADO
The California Avocado is a native American plant with a long, distinguished history. Today, the most popular variety is the Hass. The mother tree of all Hass avocados was born in a backyard in La Habra Heights, California. In 1871, when Judge R.B. Ord of Santa Barbara successfully introduced avocados to the U.S. with trees from Mexico. By the early 1900s, growers were seeing the avocado's commercial potential and ever since growers, enthusiasts and researchers have been hunting for improved varieties. A search through the industry's foremost annals, in particular the California Avocado Society Yearbook, reveals that many new selections of avocado were made in the industry's infancy and over subsequent years but few had commercial significance. By the 1950's around 25 different varieties of avocados were being commercially packed and shipped in California, with 'Fuerte' accounting for more than two-thirds of the production. Even though 'Hass' was discovered in the early 1930's and patented by Rudolph Hass in 1935, it was not until large-scale industry expansion occurred in the late 1970s that 'Hass' replaced 'Fuerte' as the leading California variety.
Today, California is the leading producer of domestic avocados and home to about 90 percent of the nation's crop. Most California Avocados are harvested on 60,000 acres between San Luis Obispo and the Mexican border, by about 6,800 growers. San Diego County, which produces 60 percent of all California Avocados, is the acknowledged avocado capital of the nation.
California Avocados are grown year-round. A single California Avocado tree can produce up to 200 pounds of fresh fruit each year, approximately 500 pieces, although most average around 60 pounds or 150 pieces of fruit.
THE CALIFORNIA HASS AVOCADO
Ideal growing conditions makes the California Hass avocados creamy and luscious. Southern California Hass avocado groves are blessed with good soil, proper drainage, abundant sunshine and cool ocean breezes - everything an avocado needs to grow up creamy rich and velvety. And, since these conditions prevail year-round, there is always an abundant supply of California Hass avocados.
California Hass Avocados let you know when they are ripe. The great thing about a California Hass avocado is that its pebbly skin turns from green to nearly black when it is ripe and ready to eat. Look for fruit that is average to large, oval-shaped and heavy. Then slice into one of nature's perfect foods and enjoy the silky smooth texture and rich nutty flavor in all your favorite recipes.
Although there are close to 500 varieties of avocados, seven varieties are grown commercially in California, and the Hass variety accounts for approximately 95 percent of the total crop. Other, less known varieties are grown in Florida. Some of the more well known varieties are included below.
The Hass avocado is the year-round avocado and is the most commonly used avocado in the United States. It is the leading variety of California avocado. The Hass is an oval-shaped fruit with small to medium seed, easy peeling and a great taste. Green skin turns purplish-black when ripening and the fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe. The flesh is pale green with a creamy texture and an excellent shelf life. The Hass is the only year-round avocado.
LAMB HASS AVOCADO
The Lamb Hass avocado is the California Summer Sun variety available from late June through October. It has exceptional flavor and a large robust sized, which are the hallmark of this new avocado variety. The Lamb Hass avocado has pale green pebbly skin with pale green flesh. It has a smooth, creamy, nutty taste. The fruit is a symmetrical oval in shape, which displays exceptionally well. The size ranges from 11.75 to 18.75 ounces. It looks and ripens like a Hass avocado with medium sized seed. The skin darkens as it ripens and the flesh yields to gentle pressure when ripe.
The Bacon avocado is a midwinter green variety of good quality available late fall into spring. It is an oval-shaped fruit with a medium to large seed, easy peeling and a light taste. It has smooth, thin green skin and yellow-green flesh. It is a medium-sized fruit ranging from 6 to 12 ounces in size. When ripe, skin remains green but darkens slightly, and fruit yields to gentle pressure.
The Fuerte avocado is an established favorite. Harvested late fall through spring, the Fuerte is the original high quality California Avocado. The pear-shaped, medium to large fruit, ranging from 5 to 14 ounces, has a medium seed and creamy, pale green flesh. Skin is thin and green with smooth surface. Great taste. Peels easily. When ripe, skin remains green and flesh yields to gentle pressure. Has a good shelf life.
The Gwen avocado is the Hass-like Green variety. Gwen is similar in appearance, taste and texture to Hass, but slightly larger. The Gwen has plump, oval fruit with small to medium seed, easy peeling and a great taste. The size varies from medium to large fruit, ranging from 6 to 15 ounces. The flesh is gold-green and creamy. Green skin is pebbly and thick but pliable. The green skin turns dull when ripening and the fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe. It stores extremely well when ripe and has a great taste. It is available late winter through late summer.
The Pinkerton avocado is a premium winter variety. The large, long, pear-shaped fruit is available from early winter through spring. The Pinkerton avocados have small seeds and yield more fruit per tree than some other varieties. The green skin deepens in color as it ripens and the fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe. Flesh is creamy and pale green. It has excellent peeling characteristics and great taste. The large fruit ranges from 8 to 18 ounces in size.
The Reed avocado is the summertime variety. Reed's large size and availability in summer months makes it a good food service variety. The large, round fruit is available in the summer months and early fall. Medium to large round fruit with slightly pebbled skin which remains green when ripe and a medium sized seed. The flesh is creamy and buttery and has a good taste. It is easy to peel. Size is medium to large, ranging from 8 to 18 ounces. The skin remains green and the fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe. It stores well.
The Zutano avocado is a season opener. Large fruit is one of the first varieties harvested when the season begins in September and is available late fall through early winter. It is easily recognized by its shiny, thin yellow-green skin. The pear-shaped fruit has pale green flesh, light texture, and has a light flavor. It is moderately easy to peel. The size of the fruit ranges from 6 to 14 ounces. The skin retains color when ripe and the fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe.
The Russell avocado easily recognized by its gourd like shape. The fruit and therefore the tree are very popular among the Latin communities of South Florida. Light production discourages commercial growers, but it remains an excellent choice for the enthusiast. Season is July-August and the fruit size is 1.5-2.5 pounds (24-40 ounces).
SELECTING & PURCHASING AVOCADOS
Avocados are rarely found ripe and soft in the stores. In selecting the fruit, pick a heavy one with an unblemished, unbroken skin. Bring home a firm avocado and allow it to ripen naturally at room temperature, about three to five days. If you are looking for a ripe fruit to use immediately, squeeze gently. The ripe fruit should respond to a gentle pressure or squeeze on the rounded end when cradled in your hand, somewhat like a ripe peach. Ready-to-eat fruit will be firm yet will yield to gentle pressure. Color alone may not tell the whole story. The Hass avocado will turn dark green or black as it ripens, but other varieties retain their light-green skin even when ripe. Avoid Avocados where you can sense large soft spots or gaps below the skin: those will be bruises or fruit with dark blemishes on the skin or over soft fruit. If you leave a dent, it is overripe and will have blackened flesh that is unusable.
Usually, you have to buy them 2 to 5 days in advance of using them. Let them ripen at room temperature 65-75°F, on a table, counter or window ledge until ready to eat. There is no really quick way to ripen an Avocado. Some talk about ripening it in the microwave with a zap for about a minute, but all that really does is soften it and you run the risk of it turning a little bitter on you. The California Avocado Commission does not recommend this method to accelerate the ripening process. The flavor will not have ripened at all, either.
You may speed the ripening (by a day or so) using ethylene gas, such as is produced naturally by an apple or a banana. To try using this method, put the Avocado in a paper bag (they will never ripen in a plastic bag) with an apple or a banana and let sit at room temperature. This should take anywhere from 1 to 3 days.
Ripe avocados can be kept in the refrigerator uncut for 2 or 3 days but not any longer than 5 days. The avocado will begin to discolor and lose their flavor if kept longer. Unripe avocados should not be refrigerated because they will never ripen properly. To store cut fruit, sprinkle it with lemon or lime juice or white vinegar and place in an air-tight container in your refrigerator. If refrigerated guacamole turns brown during storage, discard the top layer.
Avocado oil should be purchased in small quantities and not kept too long because it turns rancid quickly. However, stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for several months. Like other oils, it is high in fat and calories.
Even though many people love eating Avocados, having to plan several days ahead may be a reason they do not purchase them because they cannot be eaten anytime they feel like it. You cannot just act on a whim but must have some time and patience when using avocados as part of your diet. Producers are now (2004) looking at vacuum packing whole ripe Avocados and Avocado puree so that consumers can have access to a ready-to-use supply. Commercially, Avocado pulp with no preservatives refrigerated in vacuum-sealed bags is already available to Mexican food restaurants and is available in some supermarkets in the frozen food or refrigerated produce section. According to the packagers of the product, it has a 30 day shelf life unopened. Some avocado products need to be kept refrigerated or frozen to preserve freshness.
PREPARATION & COOKING TIPS
As with any food preparation, begin by washing your hands in hot, soapy water and dry them with a clean paper towel. To avoid cross-contamination from raw meat, poultry or eggs, always disinfect your cutting surfaces and utensils. Thoroughly wash the fruit before you slice it.
To use fully ripe Avocados, cut the Avocado in half with a knife lengthwise around the fruit and then twist the two halves in opposite directions to separate or pry the two halves apart. You can cut around the seed or hit the pit with the side of a kitchen knife blade and twist it out, or lift the seed out with your finger. You can also pry the pit out of the half that still has it with a teaspoon. Use the spoon to then scoop out the Avocado flesh or peel off the skin. If you opt for peeling, the task is easier if you first cut the avocado lengthwise into quarters. Using a knife, peel off the skin. Slice or dice with flat, cut side down.
Avocado balls are especially attractive in salads and on appetizer trays. To form balls use a melon cutter on unpeeled halves.
Avocado rings look impressive and are easy to make: Cut avocado crosswise. Turn halves in opposite directions to separate, lift out seed, then peel and slice crosswise.
Avocados are very susceptible to oxidation, that is a tendency to turn brown when they come in contact with oxygen and they will start to brown from the moment they are cut open, so serve right away or immediately use some kind of ascorbic acid (e.g. lemon juice) to help slow the browning if the avocado is not used right away. Lemon or lime juice sprinkled on the fruit will slow the darkening process. Many prefer lime juice as it seems to complement the Avocado flavor without changing it. Avocados taste best when served at room temperature.
Discard the skins and the pit. No information is available about people eating the skins and pits, but it is a safe bet to say that they would be uninteresting in any way, shape or form and should be tossed in the trash.
Most Avocado recipes use raw Avocados as an ingredient but recently many recipes are emerging involving cooking Avocados. An old myth has said not to cook Avocado, as it would go bitter. What makes it go bitter, in fact, is prolonged cooking or high heat. Use gentle heat when including avocados in cooked dishes, adding them to hot foods at the last minute. So you either add it at the end of cooking, or use it in something that is just in the oven for a short while. When you are adding Avocado puree to soups, always add it at the end: you can re-heat the soup through, but never let it boil again.
If you are making a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and have a very soft Avocado on hand, instead of buttering the toast or bread with butter, use the soft Avocado instead. The taste and texture is nice.
When you have an abundance of fresh avocados, consider freezing them. Pureed avocados freeze very well and can be used in salads, sandwiches and dips. Although, avocado puree freezes quite well, but may be slightly watery when thawed (may not be suitable for guacamole). To freeze, wash and peel the fruit as described above. Scoop out the avocado pulp and mash it (puree) with 2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice to preserve the color. Use about 1 tablespoon of juice for each 2 pureed avocados. Pack the puree into an airtight container, leaving 1/2 to 1 inch of headspace. Seal and label the containers. Freeze for up to 6 months. It is best to use within 4 to 5 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using. Use thawed puree within 3 days. Unfortunately, whole and sliced avocados do not freeze well.
A WORD ABOUT FOOD SAFETY
Following these steps will help reduce your risk of foodborne illness.
Always wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after:
- Handling fresh produce.
- Handling raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
- Using the bathroom.
- Changing diapers.
- Handling pets.
Wash fresh avocados with cool tap water just before preparing or eating. Do not use soap or detergents. Cut away bruised or damaged areas before preparing or eating.
Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops often. Use hot soapy water and rinse well. Sanitize them after contact with fresh produce, or raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
To sanitize your workspace, mix one teaspoon of unscented chlorine bleach in one quart of water. Pour the mixture onto the surface and let sit at least one minute. Rinse well with hot running water.
Do not cross contaminate. Use clean cutting boards and utensils for fresh produce. If you can, use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
Do not consume ice that has come in contact with fresh produce or other raw products.
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Food Poisoning & Food Borne Illness
NUTRIENT GUIDE: AVOCADOS
Courtesy of Rick Hall, About.com Nutrition Guide nutrition.about.com
NUTRIENT UNITS 1 cup, cubes
PROXIMATES Water g 111.405 Energy kcal 241.500 Energy kj 1011.000 Protein g 2.970 Total lipid (fat) g 22.980 Carbohydrate, by difference g 11.085 Fiber, total dietary g 7.500 Ash g 1.560 MINERALS Calcium, Ca mg 16.500 Iron, Fe mg 1.530 Magnesium, Mg mg 58.500 Phosphorus, P mg 61.500 Potassium, K mg 898.500 Sodium, Na mg 15.000 Zinc, Zn mg 0.630 Copper, Cu mg 0.393 Manganese, Mn mg 0.339 Selenium, Se mcg 0.600 VITAMINS Vitamin C, ascorbic acid mg 11.850 Vitamin D IU_mcg 0.162 Riboflavin - B-2 mg 0.183 Niacin - B-3 mg 2.882 Pantothenic acid mg 1.457 Vitamin B-6 mg 0.420 Folate mcg 92.850 Vitamin B-12 mcg 0.000 Vitamin A, IU IU 918.000 Vitamin A, RE mcg_RE 91.500 Vitamin E mg_ATE >2.010 LIPIDS Fatty acids, saturated g 3.655 4:0 Butyric g 0.000 6:0 Caproic g 0.000 8:0 Caprylic g 0.000 10:0 Capric g 0.000 12:0 Lauric g 0.001 14:0 Myristic g 0.000 16:0 Palmitic g 3.603 18:0 Stearic g 0.041 Fatty acids, monounsaturated g 14.412 16:1 Palmitol g 0.965 18:1 Oleic g 13.447 20:1 Eicosen g 0.000 22:1 Erucic g 0.000 Fatty acids, polyunsaturated g 2.933 18:2 Linoleic g 2.760 18:3 Linolenic g 0.166 18:4 Stearidon g 0.000 20:4 Arachidon g 0.006 20:5 EPA g 0.000 22:5 DPA g 0.000 22:6 DHA g 0.000 Cholesterol mg 0.000 AMINO ACIDS Tryptophan g 0.032 Threonine g 0.099 Isoleucine g 0.106 Leucine g 0.184 Lysine g 0.141 Methionine g 0.056 Cystine g 0.032 Phenylalanine g 0.102 Tyrosine g 0.074 Valine g 0.146 Arginine g 0.088 Histidine g 0.044 Alanine g 0.178 Aspartic Acid g 0.424 Glutamic Acid g 0.310 Glycine g 0.125 Proline g 0.116 Serine g 0.121
USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 12 (March 1998)
Some dieters avoid Avocados, as they are high in fat (the fat content is about 20 percent). But, two-thirds of the fat is monounsaturated, which actually benefits your body and your heart in particular. Even though California Avocados seem have twice as much fat per ounce as do Florida ones, keep in mind that in the Florida Avocados the fat is spread out over more ounces. Avocados are cholesterol free.
NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF AVOCADOS
The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2000 extols the value of fruits and vegetables in the diet and reports that avocados contain "good" unsaturated fats that do not raise blood cholesterol. The fruit has a markedly higher fat content than most other fruit, mostly monounsaturated fat, and as such serves as an important staple in the diet of various groups where access to other fatty foods (high-fat meats and fish, dairy, etc) is limited. Although the avocado is high in fat (about 75 percent of an avocado's calories come from fat), 60 percent of the fat is monounsaturated, 20 percent is polyunsaturated, and 20 percent is saturated. The edible portion of an 8-ounce California avocado yields 30 grams of fat.
Nutritionally the avocado leads all other fruits in beta carotene and even exceeds the banana in potassium (60 percent more potassium than bananas). They are rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamin E and vitamin K and contains vitamin C and vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine). They have the highest fiber content of any fruit, including 75 percent insoluble and 25 percent soluble fiber. While other fruits gain sugar as they ripen, the avocado's sugar content decreases as it matures. It contains more protein, potassium, magnesium, folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, and vitamin K per ounce than any other fruit. A fatty triol (fatty alcohol) with one double bond, avocadene 16-heptadecene-1,2,4-triol), is found in avocado and has been tested for anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties are likely related with the curative effects of avocado described for a number of ailments such as diarrhea, dysentery, abdominal pains and high blood pressure.
Proof of the avocado's wealth of nutrition shows up in the USDA Nutrient Database. Though the avocado is calorie dense, (one-half cup pureed flesh contains 204 calories), the benefits outweigh the concern over its total fat content of 19.9 grams. That same one-half cup of pureed avocado packs a protein content of 2.4 grams with 3.1 grams of fiber. Using that same quantity, the avocado contains only 8 grams of carbohydrates and a surprising 704 IU of vitamin A. It's rich in the B vitamins, especially niacin, scoring 2.20 mg., folic acid registering 75.4 mcg., calcium at 13 mg., iron at 1.36 mg., and a mountain of potassium showing 729 mg. Although it has numerous benefits, the avocado should be eaten in moderation because of its high fat content.
Health Benefits Recently avocados have been recognized as a good source of two beneficial compounds: beta-sitosterol and glutathione. Beta-sitosterol is a widely prescribed anti-cholesterol drug that interferes with cholesterol absorption, thus promoting lower cholesterol levels. Laboratory analysis has shown that avocados contain 76 mg of beta-sitosterol per 100 grams of raw, edible fruit. This is four times the amount found in oranges that had previously been cited as the richest fruit source of beta-sitosterol. Glutathione is made up of three amino acids, glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine that function as antioxidants. Studies have revealed that avocados contain 17.7 mg of glutathione per 100 grams of raw edible fruit. This is more than three times the amount in any other fruit. Studies have revealed a strong correlation between increased glutathione intake and decreased risk of oral and pharyngeal cancer. The decreased risk only occurred when the glutathione came from raw fruits and vegetables.
2005 USDA DIETARY GUIDELINES
The 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid form the principles of healthy eating. Avocados (e.g. Hass) can help you meet those guidelines, and serve as a component of a diet that may help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of developing many chronic diseases.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2 cups of fruit and 2-1/2 cups of vegetables each day for a standard 2,000 calorie-per-day diet. As a delicious fruit, avocados can help you meet your daily quota for fruits and veggies when incorporated into your diet. One ounce of a fresh avocado has 50 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to one's diet.
The Dietary Guidelines recommend choosing a variety of nutrient dense foods that deliver a considerable amount of nutrients, relative to their calories, within and among the basic food groups. Fruits and vegetables are two of the major food groups of which consumers are encouraged to increase their intake.
The Dietary Guidelines also encourage limiting the intake of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars, sodium and alcohol. Avocados are a great choice, as they contribute primarily mono and polyunsaturated fat. Additionally, they are low in saturated fat and naturally free of trans fats and sodium. Avocados help in meeting major nutrition goals of reducing saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium in the diet, when they are consumed in place of foods containing those nutrients.
USDA NUTRIENT DATABASE - AVOCADO, RAW (EDIBLE PARTS)
(Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Nutritional value per 100 grams [3.5 ounces].)
Energy 160 kcal / 670 kJ Carbohydrates 8.53 grams Sugars 0.66 grams Dietary Fiber 6.7 grams Total Fat 14.66 grams Saturated Fat 2.13 grams Monounsaturated Fat 9.80 grams Polyunsaturated Fat 1.82 grams Protein 2 grams Thiamine (Vitamin B-1) 0.067 mg (5%) Riboflavin (Vitamin B-2) 0.130 mg (9%) Niacin (Vitamin B-3) 1.738 mg (12%) Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B-5) 1.389 mg (28%) Vitamin B-6 0.257 mg (20%) Folate (Vitamin B-9) 81 mcg (20%) Vitamin C 10 mg (17%) Calcium 12 mg (1%) Iron 0.55 mg (4%) Magnesium 29 mg (8%) Phosphorus 52 mg (7%) Potassium 485 mg (10%) Zinc 0.64 mg (6%)
To view the full 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report, visit www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines.
HEART HEALTH - TAKING YOUR HEART'S HEALTH TO HEART
Avocados (such as Hass) can help you meet the requirements of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, can serve as a component of a diet that helps keep your heart healthy and may even help with your weight management. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but there is plenty you can do to help prevent it. A healthy diet, physical activity and not smoking are three key ways to keep your heart strong and healthy.
High avocado intake has been shown to have an effect on blood serum cholesterol levels. Specifically, after a seven day diet rich in avocados, hypercholesterolemia patients showed a 17 percent decrease in total serum cholesterol levels. These subjects also showed a 22 percent decrease in both LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels and 11 percent increase in HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
The American Heart Association recommends a diet that is low in saturated fat (less than 7 percent of energy), trans fats (less than 1 percent of energy), cholesterol (less than 300 mg per day) and sodium. Avocados have 3.5 grams of mono- and polyunsaturated fat combined and just 0.5 gram of saturated fat per 1 ounce. serving. They are naturally free of sodium, trans fats and cholesterol, making them a great fruit to help meet heart-healthy eating recommendations.
AVOCADOS & WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
If you are on a diet or want to drop a few pounds, avocados are alright to incorporate into your diet. Losing weight requires eating fewer calories than you burn off. A 1 ounce serving of avocados contains 50 calories, so you can easily fit them into a calorie-reduced eating plan. Just look for ways to substitute avocados for foods that do not deliver lots of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. You may find that the rich, creamy texture of avocados makes your resolution to eat healthier easier to follow.
AVOCADOS & DIABETES
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2005 20.8 million Americans (7 percent of the population) were found to have diabetes. Diabetes is, however, largely preventable and controllable through medical treatments and a healthful lifestyle. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is essential to helping prevent type 2 diabetes (the most common type). Make your calories count by choosing high-quality foods from the different food groups. One-fifth of a medium avocado, or about one ounce, has 50 calories and contributes nearly 20 beneficial nutrients, 3 grams of carbohydrates and no sugars to one's diet.
AVOCADOS FOR SKIN AND HAIR
An article in the January 2001 issue of Prevention discusses the benefits of avocados for both skin and hair. Mashing an avocado and rubbing it into your hair for five minutes after washing will add luster to your hair. Avocado oil can be applied to the skin to relieve itchy, red, or irritated areas caused by eczema or dermatitis.
In South Africa, an avocado mask made of mashed avocados, honey, and lime juice is applied to the face as a moisturizing treatment to counteract the drying effects of the hot sun.
MEDICINAL USES FOR AVOCADOS
Those inclined to home medication may want to investigate medicinal uses before self-medicating. Unripe avocados are said to be toxic. The leaves of some avocado varieties are also considered toxic. The skin of the avocado has been used as an antibiotic, as a way of ridding the intestinal tract of parasites, and as a remedy for dysentery.
The leaves have a variety of uses. They have been chewed as a treatment for pyorrhea. They have been applied as poultices to wounds. Heated, they are placed on the forehead to relieve neuralgia. Leaf juices and concoctions have been employed as antibiotics, treatments for hypertension, diarrhea, sore throat, and to regulate menstruation.
Juice concoctions have been used as digestive tonics, cough remedies, and abortifacients.
Seeds have been roasted and pulverized to create treatments for diarrhea and dysentery. Powdered, they have been utilized as a dandruff treatment.
Pieces of seed have been placed in tooth cavities as a toothache palliative.
An ointment made from the mashed seed has been used for women's makeup to redden their cheeks. Oil from the seed has been applied to skin eruptions.
Buying and Storing Florida avocados are usually less expensive and generally larger than California varieties and offer less fat and fewer calories. However, they do not equal the West Coast types when it comes to rich and creamy tasting. The Florida avocados are also more perishable.
Although the avocado matures on the tree, it does not begin to ripen until it is picked. The leaves of the tree supply a hormone to the fruit that inhibits the production of ethylene, the chemical responsible for ripening fruit. Avocados found in the markets will often be firm and unripe. They will require a few days at room temperature to ripen. Ripening can be hastened by placing the fruit in a brown paper bag with an apple and stored at room temperature.
Once your Avocado has ripened, store it in the fridge for anywhere up to five to seven days (depending on how ripe they were when you put them in.) Whatever you do, do not place a hard Avocado in the refrigerator. When they are stored below 45°F, they will darken and go black - but still not soften.
Contrary to popular use, you can freeze Avocado. Not whole or in slices, or in any way that you would want to use in any kind of "solid" way afterward, but rather as a puree that you can use as a salad dressing, sandwich spread or base for a dip such as guacamole. Start with soft, ripe fruit. Remove the flesh into a bowl, mash with something acidic such as lemon or lime juice (use 1 tablespoon per two Avocados). Pack into plastic container with a lid, leave a bit of room at the top for expansion during freezing, and freeze for up to 5 months. Plan to use the puree within 3 days at most after thawing it; if there is a bit of water in it, just tip the container and drain it out.
It is an urban myth that putting the Avocado stone in your dip or guacamole will keep it from browning. The only part that will not go brown is the part covered from the air by the stone! Put your trust in plastic wrap instead. To help prevent browning of the guacamole or any dip that you have made a bit ahead of time, put plastic wrap directly on the surface on it so that no air gets at it. What turns Avocado brown is oxygen in the air.
1 Pound of Avocado equals 450 grams, which equals 2 medium size Avocados or 1 large avocado, which equals approximately 2-1/2 cups chopped or sliced or 1-1/2 to 2 cups mashed,
AVOCADO USES & RECIPE SUGGESTIONS
The avocado is very popular in vegetarian cuisine, making an excellent substitute for meats in sandwiches and salads because of its high fat content. The fruit is not sweet, but fatty, distinctly yet subtly flavored, and of smooth, almost creamy texture. Avocados are usually eaten raw because the tannins they contain result in a bitter flavor when cooked over high heat. Although edible by themselves, avocados are commonly used as a base in dips. It is used as the base for the Mexican dip known as guacamole. In the United States, guacamole is one of the more popular foods made from avocado.
Avocados are often put on hamburgers and ham sandwiches. They are also used on carne asada tacos. In South Texas, peanut butter and avocado sandwiches are popular lunch box items, most commonly associated with Mexican-Americans.
Salted avocado is also a popular snack. Avocado is also sometimes added to scrambled eggs, and can be grilled. Avocados are used as an integral ingredient and filling for several kinds of sushi, including California sushi rolls. Avocado is popular in chicken dishes and as a spread on toast, served with salt and pepper it is a common breakfast in areas where avocados are grown. This is made by mashing the avocado with some lemon juice, salt and pepper and spreading on hot freshly toasted bread.
Enjoy fresh avocado as a spread. It is superior to other spreads by providing fewer calories, saturated and total fat, cholesterol and sodium. One ounce of avocado offers 50 calories, 4.9 grams of fat (including 0.7 grams saturated), 0 cholesterol, and 3 grams of sodium. In calorie numbers, cream cheese and diet margarine have twice the calories as avocado with both registering approximately 100. Both also have more than twice as much fat, with cream cheese at 9.9 grams and diet margarine 12.2 grams. Diet margarine has no cholesterol but cream cheese totals 31 milligrams. The differences are dramatic when avocado is compared to butter, mayonnaise, and regular margarine. These foods have four times the calories of avocado and clock in at over 200 for that same one ounce. They all have four times the fat with numbers ranging from 22 to 23 grams. The avocado has only 3 grams. of sodium, but the others have quantities between 84 and 306 grams. Margarine tops the list with 306 while butter has 234 grams and diet margarine 223 grams.
Diced avocados make a beautiful garnish on practically everything from salads and soups to main dishes and sauces.
Around the world people have found diverse uses for this fruit. Jamaicans create cold avocado soup. Nigerians stuff them with cheese, throw them into a batter, and bake them. Koreans blend them with milk to create a lotion for facial and body massages.
In some countries avocados become an ingredient in desserts. In Brazil, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, a dessert drink is made with sugar, milk or water, and pureed avocado. The Taiwanese also eat them with milk and sugar.
In Brazil and Vietnam, avocados are frequently used for milk-shakes and occasionally added to ice cream and other desserts.
Chocolate syrup is sometimes added. In Australia it is commonly served in sandwiches, often with chicken. In Ghana, it is often eaten alone in sliced bread as a sandwich.
In Mexico and Central America, avocados are served mixed with white rice, in soups, salads, or on the side of chicken and meat. In Chile its consumption is widespread and used as a puree in chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs, and in slices for celery or lettuce salads. The Chilean version of Caesar salad contains large slices of mature avocado. In Kenya, the avocado is often eaten as a fruit, and is eaten alone, or mixed with other fruits in a fruit salad, or as part of a vegetable salad.
The fruit was the basis for the original alcoholic drink Advocaat, made by the Dutch population of Suriname and Recife, with the name deriving from the same source.
The oil of the avocado is extracted and bottled for use in gourmet cuisine. Avocado oil is richly flavored with nutty and fruity undertones. Use it raw only on salads when you want to add a special gourmet touch.
2 Avocados, halved and pitted
1 0range, Tangerine or Pummelo, peeled & sectioned
1/2 cup Strawberries or other berries, sliced
1/2 cup Mango, Papaya, or Pineapple, sliced
2 Carambolas, seeded, sliced
YOGURT-HONEY DRESSING (Serve on the Side)
1/2 cup Low-Fat Plain Yogurt
1 teaspoon Honey
1 tablespoon Skim Milk
Blend together ingredients for yogurt-honey dressing and chill. If preparing this in advance, sprinkle avocados with lime juice, fill with cut fruit and chill; or cut the avocados just before serving and fill with prepared fruit. Serves 4.
BLUE CHEESE & AVOCADO GUACAMOLE
2 cups Avocado, diced
3 teaspoons Lime Juice
1/2 ounce Blue Cheese
3 dashes Tabasco Sauce, or Salsa, to taste
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Make a paste of blue cheese, seasoning, and a small amount of the avocado. Add the diced avocado to the paste mixture, mashing with a fork. It is best if mashed together with a fork, since a blender or food processor would leave the mixture watery. Serve as a dip for chips, as a sandwich filling, or as a salad dressing. (Original recipe from William Krome, Homestead, Florida.)
CHILLED AVOCADO SOUP
2 large Green Peppers
2 green Onions
2 large ripe Avocados
1 tablespoon Lime Juice
1 teaspoon Salt
2-1/2 cups Low-Fat Milk
4 tablespoons Plain Low-Fat Yogurt
Mince peppers and onions and put in blender. Add peeled avocado pulp. Add lime juice and salt and blend. Very slowly add milk and blend. Chill. Serve with a tablespoon of yogurt on top and with a dash of paprika for color. Serves 4.
AVOCADO SPAGHETTI SALAD
1 package (8 ounces) Spaghetti
2 Avocados, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 can (6 ounces) Tuna, drained
2 Tomatoes, sliced
1 Green Pepper, cut in strips
1 small Onion, diced
4 tablespoons Light Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
salt and Pepper to taste
Prepare spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and chill. Mix mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce with salt and pepper. Combine spaghetti, onion, avocado, and tuna. Lightly mix in mayonnaise. Serve cold on lettuce and garnish with tomato and green pepper. Serves 6.
4 ripe, Avocados, peeled and pitted
2 Lemons, juiced
2 teaspoons Minced Garlic
1 Tomato, diced
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup Red Onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin
5 Jalapeno chiles or Serrano chiles, minced; 3 of the chiles seeded
Salt and Chile Powder to taste
In a large bowl, coarsely mash avocados and combine with lemon juice. Add the remaining ingredients to the avocado mixture, stirring until combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and serve with tortilla chips.
AVOCADO SHRIMP COCKTAIL
This version of an old standard has a contemporary twist. Fresh avocado in crunchy, spicy sauce makes a cocktail sure to be a taste pleaser for those in search of flavor.
2 tablespoons Thick, Chunky Tomato Salsa
2 tablespoons Seafood Cocktail Sauce
2 tablespoons Onion, chopped
2 tablespoons Cucumber, diced seedless
1-1/2 tablespoons Cilantro, chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons Lime Juice
2 ripe, Avocados seeded, peeled and diced
30 large Shrimp with Tails, cooked (21 to 25 count per pound)
6 Lime Slices for garnish
6 Cilantro Sprigs garnish
Thoroughly combine salsa and next 5 ingredients; gently fold in avocado. Chill mixture 1 hour to marry flavors. Mixture is best served the day it is made.) To serve, divide avocado mixture among 6 stemmed glasses. Hang 5 shrimp, tails outside glass, around each rim. Garnish each with 1 twisted lime slice and 1 sprig cilantro.
Nutrition Facts & Information per Serving: 170 calories, 12 g of fat, 55 mg of cholesterol, 160 mg of sodium, and 8 g of protein.
Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.
AVOCADO MANGO PAPAYA SALSA
1 ripe Hass Avocado, 1/2 inch diced
1 ripe Mango, 1/2 inch diced
1 ripe Papaya (Strawberry, if possible), 1/2 inch diced
1/4 cup Sweet Red Peppers, diced
1/4 cup Yellow Peppers, diced
1 tablespoon Jalapeno, minced
1 tablespoon Cilantro, chopped
1 Lime, juice only
Mix all ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado, sometimes called a 40 count or 48 count avocado, averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.
AVOCADO RASPBERRY SALAD WITH HONEY RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE
A beautiful salad loaded with color and flavor.
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Raspberry Vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons Honey
1/2 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 (5 ounces) package Spring Mix Salad
1 (11 ounces) can Mandarin Oranges, well drained
1/2 cup Glazed Walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup Sliced Green Onions
1 cup Fresh Raspberries
Pepper to taste
To prepare dressing, whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard and salt in a small bowl; set aside. Place the greens, oranges, walnuts and onions in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Add avocados and raspberries and toss lightly. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper.
Serving Suggestion: Top with grilled chicken or salmon for a main meal salad.
Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.
HOLIDAY VEGETABLE & AVOCADO SAUTE
A colorful medley of zucchini, red bell pepper and Fresh Hass Avocado, perfect for holiday meals and year-round.
1-1/2 tablespoon Avocado Oil or Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Garlic, finely chopped
1/2 large Shallot, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh Thyme Leaves
3 Zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 tablespoon grated Lemon Peel
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice
1 ripe, Fresh Hass Avocado, seeded, peeled and cut into chunks
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallot and thyme, saute for 3 minutes. Mix in zucchini, bell pepper and lemon peel, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Lower heat and cover, cooking for 3 minutes. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice with avocado. Add to skillet and gently mix. Cook for 2 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Serving Suggestions: Makes a great accompaniment to roasted meat and poultry. Try with a glass of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, or pair with other components of your holiday meal.
Large avocados are recommended for these recipes. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.
1 Avocado pulp 1-1/2 cup Milk 1/2 cup Water 4 tablespoons Sugar 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla essence (extract)
1. Cut the avocado and remove the pulp using spoon. It is very soft and easy to remove the pulp.
2. Blend the pulp along 1/2 cup water for 1-2 minutes. While blending it turns to be thick creamy paste.
3. Now add sugar, milk and vanilla essence blend until smooth paste.
4. Creamy Avocado milk shake is ready to be served. You can also refrigerate and have it later.
AVOCADO INFORMATION & RECIPE LINKS
HISTORY OF THE AVOCADO
Avocados (P. americana) have been cultivated and grown in Central and South America for a long time, perhaps since 5000 BC. A water jar shaped like an avocado, dating to A.D. 900, was discovered in the pre-Incan city of Chan Chan. Avocado seeds have been found buried with mummies in Peru dating from the 8th century BC. Aztecs called the fruit "ahuacatl" (meaning "testicle") in reference to the shape resembling a testicle (male gonad). Perhaps for this reason, it was also regarded as an aphrodisiac.
Historically avocados had a long-standing stigma as a sexual stimulant and were not purchased or consumed by any person wishing to preserve a chaste image. Avocados were known by the Aztecs as "the fertility fruit." In some countries of South America such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay, the avocado is known by its Quechua name, palta. In other Spanish-speaking countries it is called aguacate, and in Portuguese it is abacate. The fruit is sometimes called an avocado pear and alligator pear (pear due to its shape, and alligator due to the rough green skin of some cultivars). The Nahuatl ahuacatl can be compounded with other words, as in ahuacamolli, meaning "avocado soup or sauce," from which the Mexican Spanish word guacamole derives.
The earliest known written account of the avocado in Europe is that of Christopher Columbus (c. 1470-c. 1528) in 1518 or 1519 in his book, Suma de Geografia que Trata de Todas las Partidas y Provincias del Mundo.
When Hernando Cortez conquered Mexico in 1519, he found that the avocado was a staple in the native diet. Fernandez de Oviedo, the historian accompanying the conquistadors, wrote this description in 1526: "In the center of the fruit is a seed like a peeled chestnut. And between this and the rind is the part which is eaten, which is abundant, and is a paste similar to butter and of very good taste." Since it reminded him of a dessert pear, he ate it with cheese. Other Spaniards preferred to season it with salt and pepper or to add sugar to it.
The Conquistadors discovered a unique use for the avocado seed. The seed yields a milky liquid that becomes red when exposed to air. The Spaniards found they could use this reddish brown or even blackish indelible liquid as ink to be used on documents. Some of these documents are still in existence today.
Bernabe Cobo, a Spanish padre, was the first to catalog the three major strains of avocados in 1653. The principal types were Mexican, West Indian, and Guatemalan. Included in these major categories are hundreds of varieties with different shapes, colors, and skin textures.
The first written record in English of the use of the word "avocado" was by Hans Sloane in a 1696 index of Jamaican plants.
In his visit to Jamaica in 1672, W. Hughes, the royal physician, wrote that the avocado was "one of the most rare and pleasant fruits of the island. It nourisheth and strengtheneth the body." The English living in Jamaica called the avocado an "alligator pear." Some speculate that they were comparing the skin to that of an alligator. Others say alligator was a corruption of ahuacatl. In Jamaica today the people call the avocado a pear.
By 1751 travelers to the West Indies were tasting avocados grown there. One visitor, George Washington, described the "agovago pears" that were very popular in Barbados.
In the 1700's English seamen discovered that the avocado could be used as a spread to soften the hardtack they had for meals. The avocado spread soon became known as "midshipman's butter."
The plant was introduced to Indonesia by 1750, Brazil in 1809, the Levant in 1908, and South Africa and Australia in the late 19th century.
Avocado orchards were first planted in Florida in 1833 and in California in 1873. Judge Henry Perrine planted the first avocado tree in Florida in 1833, but the avocado was not destined to achieve popularity until the early 1900's. Another judge, R.B. Ord of Santa Barbara, brought the first trees to California in 1871. In 1911 Carl Schmidt who worked for the West Indian Nursery in Altadena, California, was given the task of searching for a variety of Mexican avocado that would grow in California. His search led him to Puebla, Mexico, eighty miles from Mexico City. He took cuttings from a number of trees, but only one managed to survive the great freeze of 1913 in California. The surviving tree was given the name Fuerte, a variety that became the basis for the California avocado industry. Fuerte is the Spanish word for vigorous and strong.
California postman Rudolf Hass discovered the avocado that bears his name in 1926. His original tree is still growing in La Habra Heights, California. Little did he know that his name would be used for the most popular avocado in the world today. The avocado tree is a member of the laurel family and is the only tree in the family to produce edible fruit.
The Avocado tree grows to 66 feet with alternately arranged leaves from 4.7 inches to 9.8 inches long. The flowers are inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, 0.2 inches to 0.4 inches wide. The pear-shaped avocado is 2.8 inches to 7.9 inches long and weights between 3.5 ounces and 35 ounces. It has a large central seed 2.0 inches to 2.5 inches long. It is considered by many to be a drupe, but is botanically classified as a berry.
The subtropical species needs a climate without frost and with little wind. High winds reduce the humidity, dehydrate the flowers, and affect pollination. In particular, the West Indian type requires humidity and a tropical climate which is important in flowering. When even a mild frost occurs, some fruit may drop from the tree, reducing the yield, although the Hass cultivar can tolerate temperatures down to -1°C (30.2°F). The trees also need well aerated soils, ideally more than 1 meter (39.37 inches) deep. Yield is reduced when the irrigation water is highly saline. These soil and climate conditions are provided only in a few areas of the world, particularly in southern Spain, the Levant, South Africa, Peru, parts of central and northern Chile, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the Philippines, Malaysia, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico, the center of origin and diversity of this species. Each region has different types of cultivars. Mexico is the largest producer of the Hass variety, with over 1 million tonnes (a metric ton [tonne] equals 2,204.6 pounds) produced annually.
FOOD & AGRICULTURE - WORLDWIDE AVOCADO OUTPUT (2005)
(Source: FAO (2004) Major Producers of Avocado)
(Metric Tons or Tonnes)
WORLD RANK Mexico 1,040,390 1 Indonesia 263,575 2 United States of America 214,000 3 Colombia 185,811 4 Brazil 185,811 5 Chili 163,000 6 Dominican Republic 140,000 7 Peru 102,000 8 China 85,500 9 Ethiopia 81,500 10
The three main strains are the Mexican, the West Indian and the Guatemalan. All have elliptical leaves that are glossy dark green with pale veins. The leaves remain on the tree for two to three years. The Mexican variety bears purple or black fruit the size of a plum with a smooth skin and yellow-green flesh. The leaves of the Mexican avocado have an intense anise flavor, and dried, they are used to season black bean dishes. It is the hardiest of the avocado trees with its fruit harvested in the fall. The Guatemalan avocados are either purple, black, or green with a rough skin and are larger than the Mexican ones. They are harvested in the spring or summer. The leaves have a medicinal use. The West Indian type bears the largest fruit with some avocados weighing over 2 pounds. The skin is smooth and usually light green. The leaves have no scent. The Hass and the Fuerte, the two most popular avocados in the market today, are hybrids of the Mexican and Guatemalan. Approximately 75 percent of the avocados sold in the United States are Hass. Fuerte is the second most popular of the seven varieties that are grown in California. The other California avocados are Bacon, Zutano, Gwen, Pinkerton, and Reed.
Growing Avocado trees are planted from grafted seedlings and produce a crop in 1 to 3 years. A mature tree will bear between 100 to 400 avocados. Some of the fruit may drop off prematurely. Proper watering, good cross-pollination, and stress elimination can avoid this. Avocado trees will continue to bear fruit for up to 200 years unless they succumb to disease. An evergreen tree, it sheds many leaves in early spring. It is a fast growing tree that can reach a height of 80 feet. The tree produces panicles or clusters of 200 to 300 small yellow-green blossoms. Each panicle will yield one to three avocados. Type A flowers are receptive to pollination in the morning and shed pollen the next afternoon. Type B flowers are receptive to pollination in the afternoon and shed pollen the following morning. A small percentage of the flowers are defective and sterile. The best crop occurs when there is cross-pollination between Type A and Type B.
Mexican avocados take about 6 to 8 months to reach maturity. Guatemalan varieties require 12 to 18 months. Fruit left on the tree will grow larger and usually will not ripen. Purple types are left on the tree until they reach full purple color. Commercial growers must allow the fruit to remain on the tree until it reaches 8 percent oil content.
The tiny cocktail avocado, one of many less common varieties, is quite slim, 2 to 2-1/2 inches in length, and is completely seedless. This variety can be found growing in Chile, South Africa, and Israel.
HARVEST & POST-HARVEST
An average avocado tree produces about 120 avocados annually. Commercial orchards produce an average of 7 tonnes per hectare each year, with some orchards achieving 20 tonnes per hectare (a hectare is 10,000 square meters or 2.471 acres. An acre is 4840 square yards and there is 640 acres in a square mile). Biennial bearing can be a problem, with heavy crops in one year being followed by poor yields the next. The avocado tree does not tolerate freezing temperatures, and can be grown only in subtropical or tropical climates.
The avocado is a climacteric fruit (the banana is another), which means that it matures on the tree but ripens off the tree. Avocados used in commerce are picked hard and green and kept in coolers at 38 to 42°F (3.3 to 5.6°C) until they reach their final destination. Avocados must be mature to ripen properly. Avocados that fall off the tree ripen on the ground, and depending on the amount of oil they contain, their taste and texture may vary greatly. Generally, the fruit is picked once it reaches maturity; Mexican growers pick Hass-variety avocados when they have more than 23 percent dry matter and other producing countries have similar standards. Once picked, avocados ripen in a few days at room temperature (faster if stored with other fruits such as bananas, because of the influence of ethylene gas). Premium supermarkets sell pre-ripened avocados treated with synthetic ethylene to hasten the ripening process. In some cases, avocados can be left on the tree for several months, which is an advantage to commercial growers who seek the greatest return for their crop; if the fruit remains unpicked for too long, however, it will fall to the ground.
P. AMERICANA, AVOCADO PLANT FLOWERS BREEDERS
The species is only partially able to self-pollinate, because of dichogamy in its flowering. This limitation, added to the long juvenile period, makes the species difficult to breed. Most cultivars are propagated via grafting, having originated from random seedling plants or minor mutations derived from cultivars. Modern breeding programs tend to use isolation plots where the chances of cross-pollination are reduced. That is the case for programs at the University of California, Riverside, as well as the Volcani Centre and the Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias in Chile.
The avocado is unusual in that the timing of the male and female flower phases differs among cultivars. There are two flowering types, "A" and "B". "A" cultivar flowers open as female on the morning of the first day and close in late morning or early afternoon. Then they open as male in the afternoon of the second day. "B" varieties open as female on the afternoon of the first day, close in late afternoon and reopen as male the following morning.
- "A" Cultivars: Hass, Gwen, Lamb Hass, Pinkerton, Reed.
- "B" Cultivars: Fuerte, Sharwil, Zutano, Bacon, Ettinger, Sir Prize, Walter Hole.
Certain cultivars, such as the Hass, have a tendency to bear well only in alternate years. After a season with a low yield, due to factors such as cold (which the avocado does not tolerate well), the trees tend to produce abundantly the next season. This heavy crop depletes stored carbohydrates, resulting in a reduced yield the following season, and thus the alternate bearing pattern becomes established.
AVOCADO PROPAGATION & ROOTSTOCKS
Avocado is usually treated with a special technique to assist its sprouting process. While an avocado propagated by seed can bear fruit, it takes roughly 4-6 years to do so, and the offspring is unlikely to resemble the parent cultivar in fruit quality. Thus, commercial orchards are planted using grafted trees and rootstocks. Rootstocks are propagated by seed (seedling rootstocks) and also layering (clonal rootstocks). After about a year of growing the young plants in a greenhouse, they are ready to be grafted. Terminal and lateral grafting is normally used. The scion cultivar will then grow for another 6-12 months before the tree is ready to be sold. Clonal rootstocks have been selected for specific soil and disease conditions, such as poor soil aeration or resistance to the soil-borne disease caused by phytophthora (root rot).
Avocado trees are vulnerable to bacterial, viral, fungal and nutritional diseases (excesses and deficiencies of key minerals). Disease can affect all parts of the plant, causing spotting, rotting, cankers, pitting and discoloration.
CULTIVATION IN CALIFORNIA
The avocado was introduced from Mexico to the U.S. state of California in the 19th century, and has become an extremely successful cash crop. Ninety-five percent of United States avocado production is located in southern California, with 60 percent in San Diego County. Approximately 59,000 acres (approximately 24,000 hectares) of avocados are grown in California. Fallbrook, California, claims the title of "Avocado Capital of the World," and both Fallbrook and Carpinteria, California, host annual avocado festivals.
While dozens of cultivars are grown in California, the Hass avocado is today the most common. It produces fruit year-round and accounts for the majority of cultivated avocados in the US. All Hass avocado trees are descended from a single "mother tree" that was raised by a mail carrier named Rudolph Hass, of La Habra Heights, California. Hass patented the productive tree in 1935. The "mother tree," of uncertain subspecies, died of root rot and was cut down in September, 2002.
Other avocado cultivars include Bacon, Fuerte, Gwen, Pinkerton, Reed, Spinks and Zutano. The fruit of the cultivar Florida, grown mostly outside California, is larger and rounder, with a smooth, medium-green skin, and a less-fatty, firmer and fibrous flesh. These are occasionally marketed as low-calorie avocados.
AVOCADO-RELATED INTERNATIONAL TRADE ISSUES
First international air shipment of avocados from Los Angeles, CA, to Toronto, Ontario, for the Canadian National Exhibition. After the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994, Mexico tried exporting avocados to the US. The US government resisted, claiming that the trade would introduce fruit flies that would destroy California's crops. The Mexican government responded by inviting US Department of Agriculture inspectors to Mexico, but the U.S. government declined, claiming fruit fly inspection is not feasible. The Mexican government then proposed to sell avocados only to the northeastern US in the winter (fruit flies cannot withstand extreme cold). The US government balked, but gave in when the Mexican government started throwing up barriers to US corn.
Legitimate pest invasion issues exist, as avocado pests originating in Mexico have made their way to California, including the persea mite and avocado thrips. These pests have increased pest control costs and made previously-relied-upon biological control less feasible. Other potentially disastrous pests, including a weevil, remain risks. Another argument is that the lower prices generated by Mexican (and Chilean) imports would increase the popularity of avocados outside of California, thereby assuaging the loss of profits due to the new competition.
Today avocados from Mexico are allowed in all 50 states. This is because USDA inspectors in Michoacan (the Mexican state where 90 percent of Hass avocados from Mexico are grown), have cut open and inspected millions of fruit in Uruapan, finding no problems. Imports from Mexico in the 2005-2006 season exceeded 130,000 tonnes. Avocados are more expensive in the US than in other countries, because those consumed in the US are grown almost exclusively in California and Florida. California produces about 90 percent of the nation's avocado crop.
AVOCADO AS A HOUSEPLANT
Avocado tree trained and grown as a houseplant from seed. It can germinate in normal soil in a large pot or by suspending a washed pit in a glass (generally using toothpicks embedded in the sides) pointed-side up and filling the glass with water until the bottom quarter of the pit is covered. The pit will crack as it absorbs water and germinates, and should sprout in 4-6 weeks. When the roots and stem emerge from the seed, it can be planted in soil. Alternatively, vermicompost bins provide ideal conditions for germination of avocado pits. Once the pit sprouts a root, transplant it to a pot containing a mixture of worm castings and potting soil. The stem should sprout within a month. The young tree is amenable to pruning and training but will not normally bear fruit indoors without sufficient sunlight and a second plant to cross-pollinate.
GROWING AN AVOCADO TREE
There is nothing more fun than growing your own Avocado Tree. This is done by opening the avocado and remove the pit from the center. You can eat the fruit of the avocado. Wash the avocado pit under cool running water, you do not need soap to clean it. With your fingers gently wipe away and remove any of the green fruit that might be on the pit. Rinse it well and then blot it dry with a paper towel. Carefully push three toothpicks into the thickest width of avocado, you want to push the toothpicks into the pit about a 1/2-inch deep. It is okay if you push them in deeper or even a little less. The toothpicks will help suspend the avocado pit in water and keep the top part of the pit in fresh air and the fat base of the pit under the surface of the water. Be careful pushing in the toothpicks, they have pointy edges and could hurt if they poke your hands.
Suspend the pit over a glass filled with water. The toothpicks will rest on the rim of the glass and hold the pit in place so it does not sink to the bottom. Always check the water level in the glass and see that the water is covering the fat base of the pit by about an inch depth. If the water is below that level you will need to add some more. Slowly and carefully pour in more water from a small cup to avoid splashing. Place the glass in a bright windowsill. In about three to six weeks the top of the avocado pit will begin to split and a stem sprout will emerge from the top and roots will begin to grow at the base.
PLANTING THE AVOCADO SPROUT
When the stem grows to about five or six inches pinch out the top set of leaves. In another two or three weeks new leaves will sprout and their will be more roots. It is now time to plant the young avocado tree. Place enriched potting soil in a large flowerpot (maybe 8 to 10 inches across). Fill the soil to about an inch from the top of the pot. Make a small depression in the center of the soil and place the pit, root-side down into the depression. Do not put it too deep. You want to have the upper half of the pit above the soil line. Add some more soil around the pit to fill in any air holes by the roots and then firm it into the soil by gently pushing the soil around the base of the pit. The tree's stem and leaves should be straight and pointing up (like a flagpole).
Give the soil a drink to water the pit. Water it generously so that the soil is thoroughly moist. Water the soil slowly and gently so that when it is poured in it does not gouge out holes in the soil. Keep your tree watered but do not let the soil be so moist that it ever looks like mud.
CARING FOR YOUR AVOCADO TREE
Keep your tree in a sunny window, the more sun it gets the bigger it will grow. Remember to give it frequent light waterings but do not let the soil get muddy. If the leaves turn yellow it means that the plant is getting too much watering, let the tree's soil dry out for a couple of days, then return to light waterings. When the stem grows six more inches pinch out the top two sets of leaves. This will encourage the plant to grow side shoots and more leaves, making it bushy. Each time the plant grows another six inches pinch out the two newest sets of leaves on top.
During the summer, the plant can go outside. If your winters are cold (below 45°F or 7°C) you must bring your tree inside for the winter. Otherwise, if your winters are cool and mild, the tree may stay outdoors year round.
Sometimes they will begin setting fruit after they are three or four years old. It helps to have several avocado trees growing together to aid with pollination.
An avocado tree is a medium to large tall tree. It can grow between 20 and 40 feet tall. With pruning it can be kept at a much shorter height.
AVOCADO PLANT TOXICITY TO ANIMALS
There is documented evidence that animals such as cats, dogs, cattle, goats, rabbits, rats, birds, fish and horses can be severely harmed or even killed when they consume the avocado leaves, bark, skin, or pit. The avocado fruit is poisonous to some birds, and the ASPCA and many other sites list it as toxic to many animals including cats, dogs, and horses. Avocado is an ingredient in AvoDerm dog food and cat food. However, the ASPCA has declined to say whether this food is safe or not without knowing the details of how the avocado is processed. Avocado leaves contain a toxic fatty acid derivative known as persin, which in sufficient quantity can cause equine colic and, with lack of veterinary treatment, death. The symptoms include gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the tissues of the heart and even death. Birds also seem to be particularly sensitive to this toxic compound. Negative effects in humans seem to be primarily in allergic individuals.
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