Native to Central America and particularly Mexico, this green thick-skinned fruit is often confused with being a vegetable. No wonder, since it is not sweet, but rather creamy when ripe and is more used in savory recipes. Being grown on a lemon-sized leafy tree and having a nutty hard seed (pit) inside qualify it as a fruit.

Like with apples, the varieties of avocados span towards a hundred. In California as the land itself, these thick-skinned fruits are of a Mexican heritage. The giant Australian avocados are recognisable on the first sight and often exported across Asia, but I have seen them also growing in Colombia, from where they probably sailed from. In Europe they grow around the Mediterranean, but are mostly imported from Morocco. Their popularity in Florida inspired plantings of the West Indian or Guatemalan hybrids, while in Hawaii there are hundreds of genetically distinct varieties.

In South America, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil lead their native plantings. Today, even China and Indonesia grow avocados, amounting to a truly global phenomena. The climate needs to be warmer than for apples though so they do not fare well in Northern countries.

You can keep the seed and even plant your own tree like the organic farm Via Organica in Mexico does.

Avocado drawn by Sarah Becan

Some are pear shaped (Malama, Zutano), others more oval like an egg (Sharwill, Linda) and there are even ball-shaped (Naranjo) avocados! All these varietals can be confusing, so I sum the most common species here.

The dark blue, like corn tortilla chips coloured Hass avocado is the most commercial. It withstands pressure well, and is grown anywhere from California to New Zealand. It belongs to the Guatemalan strain together with Fuerte and Reed varietals that are ultra rich in oil content and loved for their buttery flavour. Of the Florida avocados the large and shiny Booth, Lula and Taylor are West Indian hybrids with just a mild taste since they contain less oil than the Guatemalan strain.

Depending on season, you will find different avocados across Mexico. The creamy and light Bacon and Zutano get most fans. The Bacon avocado has a slightly brown skin and is easy to peel, while Zutano is a pear-shaped fruit, with yellow-green skin.

Avocados are not just a staple of Mexican diet, but also became popular with vegetarians and vegans, because of their generous nutritional values.

Dark skinned avocadosavocado

Health benefits

Avocados are full of healthy monounsaturated fats and a ton of vitamins. Vitamin E for youthful skin, A, C, D, K, folic acid, more than a double of potassium than banana. Because avocados contain high amounts of folate, they may help with fighting depression, cancer prevention, and preventing birth defects. Avocados also contain high amounts of fiber which is shown to decrease lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as improve digestion. Devon Dionne, a certified health coach, suggests avocados as a great alternative to dairy and high sugar fruits like bananas. “I recommend using avocados for those that are lactose intolerant but love creamy textures such as ice cream, puddings and mayonnaise. I also use avocados to replace bananas in smoothies for those interested in weight loss or at risk for diabetes. It gives the smoothie the creamy texture of a banana without all the added sugar.”

Devone’s guilt-free dessert recipe:

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Ingredients

1 ripe avocado

3-4 Tbsp raw cacao powder

6 Tbsp coconut milk

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon almond butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

Directions

Cut avocado in half and remove pit. Scoop out flesh and place into a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients. Process or blend until creamy. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

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Radka’s summer treat:

Avocado Sorbet

In the summer I love this dairy-free avocado treat that is simple to make and refreshing. For a longer-kept creamy texture, use a sorbet maker.

3 ripe avocados

2-3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

3-4 Tbsp coconut sap sugar or rice syrup

pinch of salt

If you don’t have a sorbet maker, use a high speed blender (I have great experience with Vitamix) and whip until smooth, transfer into a sealed glass container and put in the freezer for at least four hours. It will keep for about a week. The more often you take it out from the freezer, the less consistent the texture will stay.

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Further use and tips:

In the kitchen this cholesterol-free butter can thicken desserts without the use of cream and any other animal produce. It is also perfect for smoothies instead of ice cream, you can make a dairy-free gelato from it. For the later, just mix a ripe avocado with coconut or other nut milk and coconut sugar or agave syrup in a high speed blender and voila, a heathy treat either as a pudding or freeze it for three to four hours for an ice-cream.