Sweet, creamy avocados are delicious to eat and packed with nutrients. Their bright green flesh is also pretty to look at – for a little while, at least. Shortly after cutting and peeling, the surface begins to turn an unappetizing brown. Preventing this discoloration consumes avocado aficionados almost as much as the quest for the perfect guacamole.
The Ugly Truth
Air has an effect on the flesh of avocados that causes the cut surface to turn an ugly brown when there’s contact with oxygen. Don’t blame just the air, though – avocados contain polyphenol oxidase, the enzyme that is ultimately responsible for ruining the fruit's good looks. Though unappetizing to look at, the air-exposed avocado is still fine to eat and should taste OK. Just close your eyes and dip, or scoop away with the offending layer.
It Ain't Easy Staying Green
While the most effective way to keep avocados green is to limit air exposure, moistening the cut side with an acidic juice or sprinkling some on your guacamole can help maintain color and add a pleasant tang. When you’re fresh out of lemons and limes, which are traditionally used for this purpose, you can reach for the vinegar bottle with confidence. A splash of white vinegar mixed gently with your diced or mashed avocado should do the trick, says Alice Henneman, a registered dietitian for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Though the avocado will eventually begin to brown, the acid in the vinegar will buy you time so it won't happen as quickly.
Pitfalls and Other Tricks
If you've cut your avocado only to find an empty vinegar bottle in the cupboard, you've still got options. Rinsing or immersing your cut avocado in cold water is one alternative that works especially well, but for reasons not fully understood, says Janet McCracken of "Bon Appetit" magazine's test kitchen. You can use this trick for avocados that are sliced, peeled or diced, but not mashed. While not as effective as vinegar, nestling the pit of an avocado in a bowl of guacamole is a long-held practice for preventing some browning. Because air can’t reach the part of the avocado beneath the pit, that portion of the guac will stay greener. Mix it a little before serving to blend in any brown spots. And don’t underestimate the power of plastic wrap – when applied tightly to the cut fruit or a bowl of guac, taking this simple measure can keep your "alligator pear" nice and green. For best results, lay the wrap directly on the surface of the mashed avocado to prevent contact with air.
True Avocado Beauty: Skin Deep
Whether you use vinegar or another method to address what is basically an aesthetic problem, bear in mind that avocados possess a lot of inner beauty, affording you an impressive nutritional boost. Rich in potassium, protein, antioxidants and heart-healthy fat, this is one food you’ll want to indulge in regularly; keep an acidic agent such as vinegar on hand so you can enjoy them with your eyes as well as your palate. You can also go ahead and pull out the big guns: Rinse in cold water, splash on some vinegar, stick a pit in it and cover tightly with plastic wrap for added protection. If you're put off by the maintenance it takes to keep your avocados picture-perfect, remember there is one foolproof way to fight the brown blight – cut your avocados, peel them, then eat them up right away.
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