This rich, creamy fruit is used for everything from guacamole to a simple but delicious toast topping.
While many may think avocado is a vegetable, it is actually a fruit, and a member of the berry family. The avocado tree is native to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. The fruit is pear-shaped and has a green or blackish skin with a light-green flesh enclosing a single large seed.
The two most common types of avocado are the black Hass and the smooth, thin-skinned, green Fuerte. The Hass variety has a smaller stone and a more buttery texture.
With its mild, nutty flavour and rich, buttery texture, avocado is the main ingredient of guacamole and the fruit works well in other dip-type recipes.
Once avocado flesh has been removed from its skin it can be used in a host of healthy dishes from dips to salads. It is more often used raw rather than cooked as heating reduces its flavour.
Avocados are very high in fat, but it’s healthy monounsaturated fat. All the same, this makes them high in energy, too, so a little goes a long way.
How to buy
To tell how ripe an avocado is, hold the two ends of the fruit between your thumb and second or third finger and apply a little pressure at these points.
- A ripe avocado will be just a little soft when squeezed and the skin will have a little give in it. This avocado is ideal for slicing/dicing in salads and immediate eating.
- If pressing it feels extremely soft, the avocado is very ripe and it’s suitable for mashing and dips, but not suitable for cutting.
- Firm fruit is an indication that the avocado is not yet ripe. This is a good choice if shopping a week in advance.
How to store
To ripen the fruit to your preferred stage, keep avocados at room temperature then store in the fridge for two to three days to keep the same ripeness.
Avocado can be frozen if you have a surplus. To freeze, mix mashed avocado with two teaspoons of lemon or lime juice and mix well. Freeze in a sealable bag, making sure you have removed the air from the bag. Defrost frozen avocado in the fridge overnight.
Always use a chopping board and a sharp knife when preparing an avocado.
Step 1 Place avocado on a chopping board. Slice avocado from one end to the other cutting as deep as the stone.
Step 2 Twist cut halves gently in opposite directions to separate them.
Step 3 While keeping your hands clear, strike the stone with the knife blade to pierce it firmly. (If you feel uneasy doing this, use a spoon or special avocado pitter utensil to scoop out the stone.)
Step 4 Lift up the knife to remove the stone from the avocado half.
Step 5 Use a wooden spoon to pry the stone off the knife. Discard the stone.
Step 6 To peel avocado, hold half in your hand and peel back skin from the flesh. Skin should come away easily in one piece if avocado is ripe.
Great uses for avocados
- Make a simple guacamole. Mash ripe avocado until smooth and mix with low-fat yoghurt. Add some finely-chopped onion and season with a few drops of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in freshly-chopped coriander and parsley. Adjust seasoning. Serve chilled.
- Make a salsa. Mix diced avocado with diced tomatoes and red onion. Flavour with a little chopped red chilli. Stir in some fresh coriander and season with lime juice and a pinch of salt.
- Make an avocado salad. Arrange sliced avocado, sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzarella on a plate. Sprinkle with fresh basil and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Season with black pepper.
- Use avocado in sandwiches instead of butter or spread for flavour, fibre and colour.
- Add avocado slices to classic Margherita-style pizzas for extra flavour and texture. Add to cooked pizza once it’s out of the oven.