Often called an alligator pear (due to its shape and the rough green skin of some cultivars) it’s actually a fruit and appears more often in the form of guacamole and is loved the world over. Botanically a large berry containing a single large seed known as a “pit” or a “stone” it can be dated all the way back to Peru, sometime between 8,000 to 15,000 years ago. It was first introduced in the United States, specifically Florida and Hawaii in 1833 and in California in 1856.
Before 1915, the avocado was commonly known as ahuacate due to its Spanish origins. Mexico is the world’s largest avocado grower, clocking in at 415,520 acres, which yields a harvest of 1.47 million tons. And in the U.S. 95% of production is located in Southern California, with 60% in San Diego County, where one of its most northern cities, Fallbrook, claims the title of “Avocado Capital of the World.” Most Americans purchase the “Hass” variety, which has a firmer meat and mixes and slices well. First cultivated in the mid-1930s by Rudolph Hass, of La Habra Heights, California, he named it after himself and patented the productive tree in 1935 (good thing his name wasn’t Przbyszewski or Butts).
Here are some of the ways we enjoy our avocados:
guacamole with lots of salsa, chips and lime wedges;
currently “avocado toast” is the newest craze, smashing it on toast with lemon juice, chili flakes, and some fresh herbs;
in Mexico and Central America, avocados are served mixed with white rice, in soups, salads, or on the side of chicken and meat;
a non-dairy or mayo substitute;
popular accompaniment to Mexican foods;
added to smoothies and sandwiches;
included in a dip or salad dressing for raw veggies;
slathered on a sunburn or used as a facial mask;
Considering we all need “healthy fats” as opposed to unhealthy trans and saturated fats, the avocado provides omega 3 fat, is not only highly nutritious but can also be soothing in skin preparations. Unlike other fruits, they are low in sugar and can be enjoyed daily as a healthy fat and welcome addition to so many foods.
With America’s love of Mexican food, the avocado is a necessity and consumption has risen dramatically over the last two decades. It has soared to a record high of nearly 1.9 billion pounds (or some 4.25 billion avocados) last year, more than double the amount consumed in 2005, and nearly four times as many as sold in 2000. Residents of Los Angeles consume more than twice as many as any other city (no surprise there) with NY second, Dallas third and Phoenix fourth. For Boomers who grew up without them, especially east of the Mississippi, they may have been slow to arrive at the party, but with the availability of avocados both from Mexico and California, they have become plentiful albeit pricey in some areas of the country.
If you are lucky enough to live in the Southwest, where they grow most abundantly, they can be had at a farmers market for fifty cents apiece and sometimes less. So enjoy this delicious fruit, and don’t spare the fresh lime juice.