The Full Scoop on Avocado

By Christina Blais Published August 5th, 2016 5 stars (9)
The Full Scoop on Avocado | RICARDO

From preparation to ripening methods, here’s everything you need to know about this creamy yet super-healthy fruit.

Choose wisely

There are literally hundreds of varieties of avocados out there but grocery stores usually only carry two types. The most common is the Hass, that dark green warty one that we all know and love. About the size of a large pear, its pebbly skin and dark colour (green, purple or black) make it easy to spot in the produce aisle. Its flesh is ultra-creamy in texture and has a mild nutty taste. It’s great in salads or sandwiches, or mashed into guacamole or smoothies.

An alternative to butter! Looking to up your healthy factor? Avocado is so creamy (in both taste and texture) that it can replace the fat in a ton of recipes, even desserts. Not yet convinced? Check out our recipe for Chocolate-Avocado Pudding. Its divine decadence will totally tip the scales in avocado’s favour!

The other common kind of avocado looks totally different from the Hass: It is much larger (the size of a grapefruit, or bigger) and its skin is smooth, shiny and bright green. Covetable brands here include the Hall, Choquette and Bruce, many of which are from Florida. This avocado contains less fat than the Hass variety, so it has a bolder taste and its texture is less creamy. Its more fibrous consistency means that it holds its shape better than the velvety Hass – perfect for salads or slicing and serving. The higher juice content, though, makes it a little runny when puréed, so not great for guacamole.

You may not always be able to find a perfectly ripe and ready-to-eat avocado at your local grocery store. No worries: Here’s a quick how-to so you can pick a perfect one.

When choosing an avocado, hold it in the palm of your hand and apply gentle pressure. If it yields a little, it’s ripe enough to eat.

Steer clear of avocados with bruises or dents in the skin, as that means the flesh is overripe. If it’s a Hass you’re shopping for, look for dark fruit, as the skin turns nearly black when ripe. And as you’re sorting through all these avocados, don’t squeeze too hard and don’t press the ends. You’ll damage the fruit, leaving nothing but a mess for the next shopper.

A Super-simple way to prep and eat avocado

Cut an avocado in half and remove the pit. Pour a little extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar into the centre. Season with salt and pepper. Eat the avocado directly out of the peel with a spoon.

Ripe and ready

Just one of avocado’s many quirks is that it doesn’t ripen until after it has been picked. This is a good thing for growers and distributors, as the fruit can be picked, shipped and sold without spoiling en route. As some avocados have a long way to go before reaching your neighbourhood grocery store, they’re often picked when the fruit is still very hard, and then stored in the cold to prevent them from ripening. The harder the fruit, the less damage it gets in transit, and the longer it can wait before a hungry shopper takes it home.

Great news for the farmers – not always such great news for you. You may have a bit of trouble finding a ripe avocado at a moment’s notice. Solution: Plan ahead, at least where this fruit is concerned! Two to five days is all it takes for an avocado to go from too-firm to perfectly ripe. (We did a little experiment – test and tell-all on page 22.) And no, light doesn’t help: You can’t speed up the process by putting those avocados on a sunny windowsill. Once ripe, this fruit is best stored in the fridge, and will stay at its peak for a few days.

Despite everyone trying to get the most delicious avocado onto your table, sometimes you’ll find that an unripe fruit looks great on the outside, but once you bring it home and open it up after it’s ripened, it has major brown spots and lines on the inside. This isn’t from bruising in shipping, but instead from something called a “chilling injury.” It means that the avocado was stored at too low a temperature before ripening – a common problem with tropical fruit. Solution: Avoid putting an unripe avocado into the fridge. Leave it on the countertop until it’s just right, then store it in the cold.

Testing the ripening process

Ever heard that you can hurry your avocados along on their road to ripeness by putting them in a paper bag with an apple or banana? Or into a container filled with flour? The idea is that, as these all contain ethylene gas, the avocados should be stimulated to ripen faster.

We bought a bunch of avocados from a single batch, and divided them up for ripening:

  • on the kitchen counter
  • in a paper bag with a banana
  • in a bag of flour
  • in the fridge’s produce drawer

The results: Other that the ones in the fridge (that stayed really hard), the rest all ripened at the same speed. No matter how we stored them, it took the avocados about two days to become soft enough to enjoy.

Moral of the story: Stop fussing. Just leave your avocados on the kitchen counter and wait. They’ll be ready soon – promise!

Two ways to cut it up

A – with just a knife

  • Use a chef’s knife or a paring knife to slice the avocado in half lengthwise, all the way down the pit.. Refaire le tour du noyau de façon à couper l'avocat en quartiers.
  • Separate the two halves by twisting them in opposite directions.
  • Firmly strike the pit with the blade of the knife. With the knife wedged in the pit, twist and remove the pit from the avocado’s flesh.

B – with a knife and your fingers

  • Use a chef’s knife or a paring knife to slice the avocado in half lengthwise, all the way down the pit. Repeat to cut the avocado into quarters.
  • Holding the avocado quarter that contains the pit, pull the pit out with your fingers.
  • Remove the skin by pulling up on one of the ends.

Two ways to cut it up

C – still in the skin

  • Open and pit the avocado using method A.
  • With the tip of the knife and being careful not to pierce the skin, slice the avocado flesh vertically and horizontally to the desired size of cubes.
  • Slide a spoon between the skin and the flesh and scoop the cubes out.

D – once out of the skin

  • Open and pit the avocado using method A.
  • Slide a spoon between the skin and the flesh to detach the fruit.
  • With a knife, cut the avocado half horizontally.
  • Slice the avocado flesh lengthwise and crosswise to the desired size of cubes.

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Christina Blais

Christina Blais

For Christina Blais, explaining food chemistry to the masses is as simple as making a good omelet. Holding a Bachelor and Master degree in Nutrition, she has been a part-time lecturer for nearly 20 years in the Department of Nutrition at the Université de Montréal, where she teaches food science courses. She has been sharing the fruits of her experience with Ricardo since 2001, during his daily show broadcast on ICI Radio-Canada Télé. And diehards can also read her column, Chimie alimentaire (Food Chemistry), in each issue of Ricardo magazine.

Comments

  1. Thanks! I learned the same thing about ripening them and you are 100% correct--patience is the best way. Plus I did not know the differences between the 2 most common ones we find at the supermarket so I'm glad I read your article! Keep up the great work!

  2. Very informative article. Now know that an avocado can be stored in fridge after it is ripened.

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