Avocados (It’s quite easy being green)

 

There’s a lot of talk about ‘superfoods’ at the moment. And avocados have to be right up there at the top of the list.

You might love your kale and spinach, but these are ‘the greens you’re having when you aren’t having your greens’. Chia seed and quinoa are healthy and chic, too, but avocados are super-tasty, super-easy to prepare and ready to eat in minutes.

There’s nothing new about avocados. They have been around for a long time and it’s thought that human beings have been enjoying them for thousands of years. They’ve been called avocado ‘pears’ – obviously because of their shape – and even ‘alligator pears’ because of the rough, uneven skin of some varieties. In India and Vietnam, they are often referred to as ‘butter fruit’ – easy to see why.

Avocados are native to Mexico and South America. Uruapan, Mexico and Fallbrook, California both claim to be “The Avocado Capital of the World” but avocados are also grown much closer to home – Indonesia is a major producer and Australian avocados are delicious. The fruit can be cultivated in many parts of the world – wherever there is a subtropical climate with no frost or strong winds.

The avocado is classed as a berry – but probably one of the most nutritious and useful. It contains high levels of six types of vitamin B, as well as vitamins K, E and C, and potassium. It’s also low in sugar and relatively high in dietary fibre and the ‘good’ fats; it actually works to lower ‘bad’ fats and cholesterol. Avocados even help the body to absorb valuable nutrients (lycopene and beta carotene) from carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy greens – so mix and match!

When something that is so good for you is also delicious, then you must be on a winner.

You’ve almost certainly eaten avocado sliced in a salad and blended into guacamole, but it’s an incredibly versatile food.

 

How many of these ideas have you tried?

On a sandwich: Use mashed avocado, with a dash of salt, pepper and your favourite herb, instead of butter or mayonnaise. It teams perfectly with seafood, chicken and cheese.

Elegant brunch or entrée: You’ll impress with avocado and crab mousse, served in a glass. What about French toast with thinly sliced avocado and shaved Parmesan? So many possibilities.

As a dessert: Avocado is a popular base for a mousse. Just blend it with cacao and a little milk or coconut cream, with honey, agave or maple syrup for sweetness. A few minutes in the fridge, et voilà – chocolate mousse. It goes well with raspberry coulis, too.

Smoothies: Be as adventurous as you like with this one! Think avocado, banana, honey, ginger and cinnamon – on ice with a mint garnish. Or shake it up with blueberry and pomegranate. Go super-healthy and energy building with avocado, spinach and kiwifruit, blended with the milk you prefer; add some protein powder for a complete meal!

You could, of course be much more indulgent. The word is that Indonesian smoothie stands are creating avocado concoctions like no others. We’re talking avocado with mango, or pineapple, or rich, flowing chocolate…

Better stop!

 

Handy hints

OK. A few more things before you dash out to buy a stash of avocados….

  • There are different varieties – Hass, Sheppard and Fuerte are probably the most common – but they can all be used similarly. The stone tends to be proportionally smaller in longer, narrower fruits, so it’s worth choosing those.
  • You’ll often find that avocados on sale are still rock-hard. Don’t be discouraged from buying them. They are unusual fruits in that they mature fully while still on the tree, but they don’t ripen until they are picked. An avocado will ripen in a few days if you leave it at room temperature.
  • If you need it sooner, store it with an apple or banana; these fruits give off a chemical that triggers the ripening process in avocados (and most other fruits).
  • If you find yourself with an unused half of an avocado (as if!) it will stay fresh if you leave the stone in it, rub the exposed flesh with lemon juice and refrigerate, in a closed container.

Super food? Maybe. But one of the nicest little fruits you’ll ever meet.