Avocados are a creamy and delicious treat; they even have a National Day in their honor (July 31st marks National Avocado Day in the United States). What makes ‘em so special? Let’s find out!
Avocados are thought to have originated in the southern parts of Central America. Scientists have found archaeological evidence of avocado trees being cultivated as far back as 5,000 BC. This tasty fruit has been a part of people’s diets for a while!
The oldest known avocado pit was discovered in a site in Pueblo, Mexico, that was dated to 9,000 BC.
Avocado trees grow wild in Central America. Small and dark-skinned with a large seed, or pit, avocados are also called a criollo.
Spain, India, and even islands in the Philippines imported avocado trees from Central America. Now they are grown in tropical climates around the world.
Mexico is still the largest producer of avocados. Farmers grow and harvest them by the millions of tons!
Fun Fact: an avocado is actually a berry! It’s part of the family of berries and is classified as a berry with a large, single seed.
Very Versatile Avocado!
In the Americas, avocados are typically used in savory dishes, like guacamole and salads, but across the globe, people use the fruits to make sweet treats.
In the Philippines, they have avocado flavored ice cream!
The people of Indonesia make a shake with avocado, sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate called jus alpukat. Yum!
Brazil creates both sweet and savory dishes from avocados. They have a sweet option called a crème de abacate, or avocado cream. They also pair avocados with meat and ceviche, a marinated fish dish that may have originated in Peru or Ecuador.
Mexico makes use of both the fruit and the leaves. The leaves are often used as a spice and have a flavor like anise, which is a little like black licorice.
An Avocado By Any Other Name...
This humble, buttery fruit goes by a few different and fun names, too. Some places call it an alligator pear, because of the texture and color of the skin. India calls it butter fruit. The original name from the Aztec people of Central America is thought to be āhuacatl.
In South America, it’s sometimes called la manzana del invierno, which translates to winter apple.
When the Spanish began importing the trees back to Spain, they called it aguacate. With various translations into the English language, we ended up with avocado.
The Most Common Variety Of Avocado Found In Stores
There are also lots of different kinds of avocados. The one you usually find in the store is called a Haas avocado.
Haas avocado trees are an important crop. They produce fruit all year long, and those trees make up 80% of the avocados you find in the grocery store!
The red avocado is found in Ecuador and is just one of many different and rare varieties of this versatile fruit found around the world.
Some avocados are “seedless”. They aren’t sold commercially because they’re small. They’re called cukes or cocktail avocados. They grow right along with the regular avocados with seeds.
When it comes time to harvest avocados, they are like bananas. They’re picked when they’re fully grown, but not ripe. The only way they ripen is when they get picked, or when they fall off the tree.
It takes about two weeks from the time they’re picked to when they’re ready to eat. The flesh softens and takes on the familiar creamy texture.
Savory Dishes Made With Avocados
Avocados definitely make a yummy addition to any menu. Try a batch of guacamole. Toss them in a salad. Or try the sweeter side and blend them into a smoothie! They’re filled with loads of vitamins and healthy stuff.
Grow Your Own Avocado Tree!
Did you know...?
You can grow an avocado tree from a seed! Trees grown from seed can take up to 10 years to produce fruit. So, you might not be enjoying guacamole from your own avocado tree any time soon, but it’s a fun little experiment to try!
It’s easy to see if the seed will sprout. It just takes a little patience.
Grab an avocado seed, a small mason jar or small cup, and 3-4 toothpicks.
- Insert the toothpicks into the seed at about one-third to halfway from the pointy end. The toothpicks don’t need to go in very far, just enough to hold them in place. This creates a way to suspend the seed in the container.
- Make sure that the seed, with toothpicks inserted, will sit on the edge of the container.
- Fill the container with enough water to submerge half of the avocado seed.
- Place it in a spot that isn’t in direct sunlight, and is warm. On top of the refrigerator, or in a shady spot in the kitchen is a good place.
- Give the seed 4-6 weeks to germinate, and add water occasionally to keep the bottom half of the seed submerged.
- Once the seed starts growing, you can plant it in a pot and let it grow. The soil should be pretty loose, and the seed shouldn’t be covered. Plant it about halfway, and give it water, sunshine, and some love.
It makes a neat houseplant. Just bear in mind, it is a tree. 😊
Whether you decide to grow your own or let the farmers deliver the fruits to your store, you can have so much fun exploring the many tastes of the avocado in dishes from eat2explore!