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Avocado

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Avocado is a fruit in terms of biological classification. Since it is predominantly used in savoury dishes it is referred to as a vegetable.

Historically it can be traced back to about 7000 BC where it was said to be enjoyed by the Aztec and Inca people. There are also records of its cultivation from 6000 B.C. in Oaxaca, and of its continuous use at all levels in all of the famous archaeological sites in Mexico, including Tehuacán in Puebla, where the earliest maize fossils appeared.

Contents

Why should I be aware of this?

  • Avocado is rich in nutrients.
  • Avocado has distinct advantaes as compared to meat.
  • There are many things to keep in mind while buying, storing and cooking avocados.

All about Avocado

An avocado is closer to a berry in botanical terms. In some respects it is a tropical fruit akin to a banana, but its oily content and nutty flavor reminds one of an olive. It should be quite soft before opening and eating. It is a fruit with a leathery skin and soft, buttery flesh; it yields to light pressure when ripe. Avocado is also known as the “alligator pear” because of the rough skin that some varieties have.

Growth

The avocado is a dense, evergreen tree, shedding many leaves in early spring. It is fast growing and is known to reach upto 80 feet. It generally branches to form a broad tree. Some cultivars are columnar, others selected for nearly prostrate form.

Growth is in frequent flushes during warm weather in southern regions with only one long flush per year in cooler areas. Injury to branches causes a secretion of dulcitol, white, powdery sugar (dulcitol can, after recrystallization be used, as a sugar-free sweetener), at scars. Grafted plants normally produce fruit within one to two years compared to 8 - 20 years for seedlings.

Off-season fruit should not be harvested with the main crop, but left on the tree to mature. Seeds may sprout within an avocado when it is over-mature, causing internal molds and breakdown.

Avocados do well in the mild-winter areas of California, Florida and Hawaii. Some hardier varieties can be grown in the cooler parts of northern and inland California and along the Gulf Coast. The northern limits in California is approximately Cape Mendocino and Red Bluff.

  • Avocados do best some distance from ocean influence but are not adapted to the desert interior.
  • There are dwarf forms of avocados suitable for growing in containers.
  • In India, avocados grow in South India especially areas around Saligao, Bangalore etc

Consumption and Storage

  • How to buy
    • While buying avocados ensure that you buy ones that are well shaped without any bruises or blemishes.
    • For immediate use buy those avocados that yield when pressed around the neck. Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm yet will yield to gentle pressure.
    • Colour alone may not tell the whole story. The Hass avocado will turn dark green or black as it ripens, but other varieties retain their light-green skin even when ripe.
  • How to ripen an avocado
    • If you plan to serve the fruit in a few days, stock up on hard, unripened fruit and then store them with a banana in side a paper bag for a few days for ripening at room temperature until ready to eat (usually two to five days). Including a banana in the bag accelerates the process because these fruits give off ethylene gas, a ripening reagent.
    • Soft ripe fruit can be refrigerated until it is eaten, but not for more than two or three days.
  • How to eat avocado

While preparing the avocado cut in halves along the length of the avocado then twist to separate the halves and remove the stone. Then it can either be served in the skin or scoop out to be added to soups, dips or cubed and added to salads.

  • Storing or Freezing Avocados
    • Ripe fruit can be stored in the refrigerator uncut for two to three days.
    • To store cut fruit, sprinkle it with lemon or lime juice or white vinegar and place in an air-tight container in your refrigerator. If refrigerated guacamole turns brown during storage, discard the top layer.
    • If you have a large quantity of fresh avocados, it's a good idea to freeze them. Pureed avocados freeze very well and can be used in salads, sandwiches and dips.
    • Wash, seed and peel the fruit as described above.

Puree the flesh, adding one tablespoon of lemon juice for each two pureed avocados. Pack the puree into an air-tight container, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Freeze and use within four to five months.

Culinary Uses

  • Avocado Fruit
    • Halve and pit avocado then scoop carrot atcks into it and eat as a snack.
    • Add to salads.
    • Mix avocados with chopped bell pepper, onions, tomato, celery,or fresh coriander, lime juice etc. to make a guacamole or salsa.
    • Add avocado to your favourite creamy tofu dressigrecipe to give it an extra richness and beautiful green colour.
    • Serve as hors d’oeuvres by slicing chunks and inserting toothpicks.
    • Add to processed vegetable slaw, vegetable loafs and vegetable cakes.
    • Mix into vegetable soups-- either blend in to make a creamy texture or serve in little chunks. It tastes great in a black bean soup.
    • Spread ripe avocados on bread as a healthy replacement for mayonnaise when making a sandwich.

Note: For optimum digestion, eat avocado alone or with any non-sweet-non-starchy fruit or any non-starchy vegetable food. Eating avocado with leafy greens, celery and/or cucumber will enhance the digestive process as additional digestive.

  • Avocado leaves

Both fresh and dried are used in the cuisine's of the South Central part of Mexico.
Fresh Leaves
Fresh leaves are used in Oaxaca as a bed for barbecuing meats as well as a flavoring for tamales.
Dried Leaves
Dried avocado leaves are most frequently available in the U.S. and can be used in soups and stews as well as bean recipes. Diana Kennedy suggests using the leaves as a substitute for hoja santa.

Cautions

  • Avoid avocados when on a weightloss diet

The vegetable is extremely rich in calories as well as fats, thus should be eaten sparingly by those who are dieting.

  • Avocados cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivity to latex

Avocados contain enzymes called chitinases that can cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivity to latex. Therefore, individuals with latex sensitivity should avoid eating or touching avocados.

  • Avoid ethylene gas treated Avocados- buy organic

The treatment of avocados with ethylene gas to induce ripening can increase the presense of these allergenic enzymes; therefore it is best to buy organic avocados not treated with ethylene gas.

  • Toxicity to animals

There is documented evidence that animals such as cats, dogs, cattle, goats, rabbits, birds, fish and particularly, horses can be severely harmed or even killed when they consume the avocado leaves, bark, skin, or pit. The avocado fruit is poisonous to birds in some cases, so on a practical level feeding the fruit to birds should be avoided.

This is a traditional view held by bird owners, yet other owners have fed avocados to their birds with no abnormal incidences at all.

Avocado leaves contain a toxic fatty acid derivative known as persin, which in sufficient quantity can cause equine colic and, with lack of veterinary treatment, death. The symptoms include gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the tissues of the heart and even death. Birds also seem to be particularly sensitive to this toxic compound.

Avocado vs. Meat

  • Avocado is fiber-rich and does not cause constipation. Meat has low water and is constipating
  • Avocado has all the essential amino acids while the amino acids present in get denatured when the meat is cooked.
  • Avocado has zero cholesterol while meat is extremely high in cholesterol
  • Avocado takes only 2 to 4 hours to digest while meat takes 12 to 24 hours.
  • Avocado has no parasites, pathogens or tumors, meat has incidences of several varieties of parasites and pathogens.
  • Organically grown avocados are not inoculated with any chemicals while meat is inoculated with antibiotics, medicines and hormones
  • Avocado does not need cooking. Eating meat raw increases the parasite-pathogen risk. When meat is cooked the fats become carcinogenic, the proteins coagulate, and the minerals become embedded as arterial and bowel plaque leading to atherosclerosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc.
  • Avocado is healthy to eat while meat is linked to major health hazards such as cancer, colitis, diabetes, obesity and many other diseases.
  • Avocado is alkalinizing, meat acidifying

Avocados and health

The avocado is almost perfect in terms of the nutrients it contains and can be called an almost perfect food. Avocados are full of nutrints such as vitamins, A, B-complex, C, E, H, K, and folic acid, plus magnesium, copper, iron, calcium, potassium and many other trace elements. Avocados provide all of the essential amino acids, with 18 amino acids in all, plus 7 fatty acids, including Omega 3 and 6. In fact, avocados contain more protein than cow’s milk while a small avocado will provide more protein than a huge steak. This is because cooked protein in meat gets deranged and mostly unavailable to our liver, the organ which makes all of our body’s protein. On the other hand, ripe, organically grown avocados are naturally pure and contain all of the elements needed to build the highest quality protein in our bodies. The fats it contains are of the mono-unsaturated kind, which does not lead to an increase in blood cholesterol levels. Avocados are also extremely rich in potassium with every 100 grams containing 450mg of the nutrient. Another metal which avocado is rich in is copper with every 100 grams containing about 0.2 grams of the nutrient.

Traditional Uses

  • Ancient Chinese medicine used avocados to help harmonize the liver while lubricating the lungs and intestines. These benefits can be claimed of avocados due to their cooling nature.
  • Avocados are extremely rich in copper and therefore help in the formation of red blood cells.
  • As avocados are very easily digested by the human digestive system they are an ideal remedy for ulcers.
  • Avocados have a high vitamin E content and therefore said to be very helpful in curing dermatological ailments as well as burns.

Health Benefits

  • Heart Diseases --The high vitamin E content in avocados is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This is likely due to the fact that low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is protected by vitamin E from damage by free radicals in the blood. If the LDL cholesterol is damaged it is to lead to likely blockage in the blood vessel walls. Stopping LDL damage thus helps decrease cardiovascular problems. In most food forms the vitamin E content is destroyed as the body processes the foods. While consuming avocados one has the advantage that no processing is required.
  • Infertility in Men -- Vitamin E also plays a very important role in improving sperm count and mobility. Along with vitamin C it seems to play a role in stopping the sperm from grouping together and thus providing greater mobility in the journey to the egg.
  • Parkinson’s Disease -- Recent scientific research has shown people with a certain form of Parkinson’s are offered some protection from the disease if they consume a diet that is rich in vitamin E, thus making avocado an ideal food choice.

Unlearn

  1. It’s a vegetable. Fact: It’s actually an oily berry--a fruit.
  2. It’s high in cholesterol. Fact: It has no cholesterol. Only animal foods have cholesterol.
  3. It’s high in fat. Fact: By weight, avocados average 30% easily digestible oily fatty acids and approximately 70% water.
  4. Its saturated fat content is dangerous. Fact: Only about 2.5% of the edible portion of avocado is saturated fat, and unheated saturated fat from live plant foods is non-toxic.
  5. It’s fattening. Fact: It is the cooked starches, meat, dairy and processed sugar in people’s diets that feed their fat cells. Most active people who consume avocados as part high raw food vegan diet have no problem losing excess fat and staying lean.
  6. It is a tree ripened fruit. Fact: The avocado doesn't soften on the tree. After dropping or picking it must be allowed to soften for 4 to 17 days depending on the variety and ambient temperature and humidity.

References

  • The Complete Guide, Healing Foods by Amanda Ursell, published by Dorling Kindersley
  • Extreme Gardening: How To Grow Organic in the Hostile Deserts by Dave Owens published by Poco Verde Landscape (November 1, 2000).
  • AVOCADO
  • Fresh California Avocados
  • Growing Avocados from Seed
  • How Not To Kill Your Avocado Tree
  • Avocado Oil
  • Recent Research on Avocado Toxicity
  • Cultivars

See Also