How To Choose Avocados

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If you love guacamole, you may think a ripe avocado is the perfect vegetable -- and you'd be wrong. The avocado is actually the perfect berry! A South American native, avocados go by quite a few other names: They're widely known as alligator pears for their color, texture and shape. They've also been called the butter fruit and vegetable butter in different regions. If you're traveling and have a hankering for avocado in your salad or sandwich, ask for an avocatier in France, and an abogado in Spain.

Wherever you find them, avocados are the main ingredients in guacamole. With ten minutes and a few spices, you can transform a simple avocado into classic guacamole, the most popular dip in America. Guacamole rules during the Super Bowl and on other special holiday occasions. It isn't all a bowl of delicious green goo, though. To prepare the perfect guacamole, you need to know the facts about this misunderstood berry.

Avocado Varieties

There are two broad varieties of avocados sold commercially. One is small and has a deep green, pebbly skin that begins to blacken as it ripens, the other appears bright green.

  • Often sold as Hass (or Haas) avocados, this dark avocado is by far the most popular choice used in guacamole. It has a high oil content and stays creamy through the mashing process. This makes it the best candidate for your homemade guacamole recipe. The oil in avocados is valued for its high concentration of monosaturated fatty acids, which can be beneficial to your heart.
  • The second variety, the Fuerte avocado, is larger than a Hass and has a smooth, bright green skin. It also has a lower oil content and milder tasting meat. This larger avocado is often sold generically as a Florida avocado. Although there are other varieties available in different parts of the world, the Haas and Fuerte are the most commonly consumed in the U.S. and represent the high and low oil options for this berry.
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How To Select An Avocado

When selecting an avocado for guacamole, keep these things in mind:

  • Unlike other fruits and berries, avocados don't smell "ripe." You have to look for other clues.
  • A ripe Hass avocado will be almost black when ripe.
  • An avocado of either variety (Hass or Fuerte) will soften as it ripens and yield somewhat when you press it gently with your thumb. If the avocado feels very soft, it's overripe and not a good candidate.
  • The light green flesh of an avocado will oxidize, or turn grey, once exposed to the air. This can even happen before the avocado is opened if there's a small tear at the stem end of the fruit. When you shop for an avocado, prefer fruit with the nub of the stem intact. It acts like a plug and keeps air out.

How To Store An Avocado

  • If you have to purchase an unripe avocado, you can ripen it quickly (within 48 hours) by placing it in a bag with either a ripe apple or banana. Apples and bananas produce large quantities of ethylene gas that promotes fast ripening of fruits and vegetables.
  • If you want to extend the life of a ripe avocado, place it in your refrigerator's vegetable bin. A temperature of around 40 degrees F will stop the ripening process temporarily.
  • You can freeze avocados, but not in the skin. Before freezing, split open the fruit, and extract and mash the meat. Add a drop of lemon or lime juice, and remove as much air from the freezer bag as you can before sealing it.
  • Avocados typically last one week after the date you purchase them. When you are shopping for avocados, keep in mind how many you will need and reasonably use during this one week period to avoid excess avocados going bad before you have a chance to eat them.

How To Use Avocados

Avocados can be used in many recipes, or enjoyed as a snack.

  • Avocados are the base ingredient for guacamole
  • Slice avocados for an addition to sandwiches
  • Eat avocados alone as a snack
  • Top salads with small slices of avocado

When selecting your avocados, keep in mind what you will want them for, how soon you will use them, and how much oil you prefer in your recipes or while eating the avocado alone. Hass avocados are your best option for traditional guacamole, and will remain soft throughout the preparation process. For a lower oil content, stick to Fuerte or Florida avocados.

Last Updated: December 28, 2011
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About Sara Elliot Sara Elliott is a freelance copywriter and dedicated blogger. Her popular gardening, cooking and crafting blog, The Herb Gardener, was cited by The Wall Street Journal for its fun and frugal tips. Sara has a degree in English, and you can find her health, crafting, and lifestyle pieces on sites like DiscoveryHealth.com, HowStuffWorks.com, Savvi.com and TLC.com.

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