Persia americana Miller
Avocado belongs to the family Lauraceae which also includes the Bay Laurel (Bay leaves) and Cinnamon.
It’s also popularly known as Alligator Pear, because it looks like a leathery pear or Butter Fruit or Butter Pear.
It’s a native to central America and has been cultivated in the USA since the mid 1800s in Florida and California, which produces 90% of US fruit. It’s currently cultivated in the tropical and Mediterranean types of climates throughout the world.
Producers: Mexico is the largest producer and exporter of avocado. Other main producers are, California, New Zealand, Peru and South Africa.
There are several cultivars of avocado the most common being ‘Hass’, which accounts for 80% of the cultivated avocados in the world, and produces fruit all year round. The flesh has a nutty, rich flavour with 19% oil and the fruit turns purplish black on ripening.
The other cultivar is ‘Reed’ which has large, round, green fruit with a smooth texture and dark, thick, glossy skin. The flesh is smooth and delicate,with a slightly nutty flavour. The skin ripens green
Another cultivar is ‘Monroe’, which originated in south Florida. It is cold hardy and is widely grown in Florida. It has large elliptical fruits, up to 2Ib (0.9kg) in weight, with a green glossy skin.
Avocado fruits vary in size from a few ounces to several pounds, depending on the cultivar.
The colour of the skin is dark green, bright green to purplish black and may be smooth and glossy to pebbled. The skin may thick and easy to peel or thin and difficult to peel, depending on the cultivar.
Shape: varies from pear shaped, oval, elliptical or spherical.
Texture: smooth and buttery, when ripe with variable oil content.
Flavour: mild nutty flavour or subtly flavoured, with smooth, buttery texture.
Avocado fruits, ripen after harvesting.
Avocado is exceptionally high in fat, compared to other fruits. 71-88% of the calories in avocado comes from fat.
The fat is mostly monounsaturated, and is the same type of fat found in natural foods such as olive oil, red meat, whole milk products and nuts.
Studies show, monounsaturated fats lower cholesterol. Avocados contain no cholesterol.
100g (3.5oz) serving avocado has less fat than a salad with 2 tablespoons Italian dressing, a cup of potato salad made with mayonnaise or 100g (3.5oz) hamburger made from lean ground beef.
The sugar content in avocado tends to reduce to a negligible amount as it ripens, unlike other fruits.
It contains more beta carotene than other fruits like apples, banana, grapefruit.
It’s high in potassium and supplies 60% more potassium than the same serving banana. It’s also a fair source of dietary fibre.
100g serving of avocado is moderate to rich in B vitamins, vitamin K, and a good content of vitamin C, E and potassium.
Can Avocado be cooked?
Cooking avocado for a prolonged period of time over high heat induces a chemical reaction, which makes them taste bitter. The flesh of some cultivars may be rendered inedible by heat.
Haas avocados can be cooked for a short time without becoming bitter. This means they can be added to cooked foods like soups, pasta or mashed potatoes at the end of cooking.
Avocado as an important staple in the diet of those who have limited access to fatty foods like meat, fish and dairy products. The flesh turns brown when exposed to air. Once cut it should dipped in lemon or orange juice to prevent browning.
Avocado is mostly served raw. in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Avocado is popular in vegetarian cuisine as substitute for meat in sandwiches and salads due to high fat content.
In Ethiopia: avocado is mashed and mixed with sugar and milk or water and served with Vimto and a slice or lemon.
In Mexico and Central America avocado is served with white rice, in soups, salads and as side for chicken and meat dishes.
California speciality: avocado and sprouts in a sandwich. The crunchy spicy sprouts set off the creamy mellow avocado to advantage.