Avocados are a tough-skinned, pear-shaped fruit with a buttery texture and a subtle, creamy flavor. However, finding a ripe one at your local grocer or farmer's market can be difficult as the skin's texture and color can vary wildly. Allowing an unripe avocado to ripen further after purchase can ensure it is neither hard nor fibrous.
Avocados were originally cultivated in Puebala, Mexico roughly 12,000 years ago and looked somewhat different from today's common avocados. They were originally smaller, at about half the size of many varieties found today, with a blackish skin and a much larger seed inside. They were known as Criollos and can still be found today. Criollos also tend to be harder and more fibrous than the hybrid species more readily available.
Avocados originate from three main varieties; Mexican, Guatemalan, and West Indian, although many of the fruits are a hybrid of those. One difference is the fruit's ability to tolerate temperatures, with Mexican and Guatemalan able to handle cooler temperatures and West Indian growing better in warmer climates. Mexican breeds tend to be smaller, with thin, smooth skins and a green skin. Guatemalan descendants have a thicker skin, similar to tree bark, and tend to have a black or purplish appearance. West Indian are closer to Mexican, with a shiny smooth skin that's thicker but also green. Haas avocados are a particular type of Guatemalan descent and by far the most common sold in grocery stores. Due to their Guatemalan lineage they are also likely to be harder and more fibrous in texture if eaten too soon.
The ripeness of an avocado can also affect how hard or fibrous it is. Judging an avocados ripeness can be challenging without knowing about the varieties and growing conditions. Avocados do not ripen until they are taken from a tree and spend several days at room temperature. Unripe avocados of several varieties may appear hard and are likely to have a much more fibrous texture. When choosing one at the store, the lighter the color and softer the skin of the avocado is, the riper it is. Certain varieties may also have a ripeness sticker or tag attached to aid customers in locating the best choices. This will ensure a smoother, richer texture. A ripe avocado can be preserved several days longer by refrigerating and once served, adding a small amount of lemon juice will preserve the yellowish color.
- Photo Credit avocado, organic image by Astroid from Fotolia.com
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