Avocados: picking, selecting, storing
24 Oct 2013 09.42 am by Renny Wijeyamohan
Aguacate. That’s the Spanish word for Avocado. For me it was a frustrating word to learn in my beginners class. Aguacate. Unsurprisingly, once I had learnt it though – I couldn’t stop saying it. To everyone. No doubt that bemused a few locals when I was in Mexico, but it caused the friends I was travelling with no end of laughter.
Just like grasping the word in Spanish – understanding how to assess avocados off the tree, at the grocery store and the best way to preserve them can be a difficult skill to master. But it’s entirely possible and all you need is a pair of hands. In fact – you don’t even need that, one hand will do.
If you’re growing your own avocados at home – there’s one rule: pick ‘em when they’re big, hard and green. Remember that avocados don’t ripen until they come off the tree. If you’re not sure if they are ready yet, pick one and leave it in a cool room in your home for about a week. If it becomes soft and edible that’s your licence to pick more.
For those of us who are less savvy, the main challenge is picking an avocado from a crate of hundreds of others. While at a glance they may all look the same, they’re not. Avocados can differ in colour, firmness, shape and texture. Colour and firmness are your priorities when selecting an avocado as they are both good indicators of ripeness. Generally, a darker coloured avocado is more ripe – but even if you pick up a dark coloured avocado you will need to test its firmness. A ripe avocado should give slightly under pressure applied from the palm of your hand. When you touch it at its tip (look for the indentation where the stem used to be) it should feel the same as when you touch the end of your nose. Don’t squeeze too hard with your fingertips or you’ll bruise the skin.
If you’re buying an avocado for a specific dish – maybe guacamole for a Friday night Mexican dinner or to have with toast and poached eggs for a late Sunday breakfast – you’ll need to think about how long an avocado will last. If it’s ripe then you should eat it within a couple of days. If your event is 4 or 5 days away – think about buying a less ripe (more firm) avocado.
If you’re avocado is ripening a little too fast – place it in the refrigerator. This will slow down the ripening process. On the other hand, if your Mexican dinner is only a couple of days away and you’re feeling stressed because your avocado is too firm – place it in a paper bag, or with an apple or banana to speed up the softening process.
Once you cut open your avocado you have a limited amount of time to eat it before it becomes too soft and brown – usually no more than a day. To give your cut avocado the best lifespan do not remove it from its skin (cut out the wedge you are going to eat and replace the flap of skin of the part you have just eaten), leave the seed in, wrap it in plastic or place it in an airtight container, sprinkle it with a little lemon or lime juice and then refrigerate.
- Burke, D, Organic: Don Burke’s Guide to Growing Organic Food, 2011, New Holland, Australia
- White, Woolf, Harker & Davy, “Measuring Avocado Firmness: Assessment of Various Methods”, 1999, Revista Chapingo Serie Horticultura 5, pp. 389-392.
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