In search of the perfect avocado
Last updated 4/17/2008 at Noon
You’re in the “Avocado Capital of the World,” but do you know how to pick out a perfectly ripe avocado?
“Alligator pears” are plentiful in the Fallbrook area. For those residents who don’t grow this unlikely looking fruit, or have friends who do, some of the local grocery stores carry avocados delivered straight from Del Rey’s packing plant.
Some of the best known varieties grown and/or sold in Southern California are Bacon, Fuerte, Zutano and Hass. Bacon and Fuerte are both at the end of their growing season now and Zutano trees produce fruit from September through January. Hass avocados, on the other hand, are ready for picking anywhere from late January to July and have a long shelf life.
All of which makes Hass avocados the most common and popular variety. Not only are they available in all of the grocery stores, but Hass is the only variety of avocado sold at El Toro Market. According to owner Muhammad Rahman, who sells only local produce, they are the only kind of avocado that his customers want: “They are picky about that.”
So, finding the green pear-shaped fruit with the creamy yellow-green flesh is not hard, but knowing which one to choose for eating is another story for anyone new to the avocado.
Unlike some fruit, avocados mature on the tree but do not ripen until after they are picked or have fallen off the tree. Most kinds of avocados stay green or darken slightly as they ripen, while the Hass avocado turns a purplish black.
No matter which variety of avocado you prefer to eat, the best way to tell if an avocado is ripe is with a touch test. For Delos Eyer, chef and owner of La Caseta Fine Mexican Food Restaurant, that means “giving a little squeeze to both ends” of the avocado. He said, “To know the whole fruit is ripe, [check for] a soft give at the top and the bottom.”
To hasten the ripening of the fruit, Eyer suggests placing the avocado “in a brown paper bag in a warm place,” such as near the stove. Some people also add an apple or a banana to the bag for even faster ripening, which occurs because of the gases given off by the fruit. In any case, when picking out a ripe avocado, Eyer says you want to be sure that “not just the bottom is ripe, but the top is too,” so you are not getting a half-ripe avocado.
Once you find a ripe avocado, there are many ways to eat the fruit. One of the most popular avocado dishes is guacamole. Eyer’s basic recipe for guacamole calls for ripe avocados mashed with a big fork or potato masher, fresh lime juice and a little salt. After that, added ingredients are a matter of individual taste. Eyer likes to add cilantro, tomato and white onion. Some people add jalapeño, fresh or granulated garlic and onion salt. Pepper can be added too, but Eyer does not recommend sour cream or mayonnaise as they take away from the taste of avocado in the dish.
Besides mashing avocados for guacamole, they can be sliced and diced to be included in or on top of a variety of dishes. At La Caseta sliced avocados are put inside their grilled chicken wraps and included in the specialty tacos. Fans of sliced avocado are also placed onto burritos as a tasty garnish. Chunks of avocado are used for garnish on the chicken tortilla soup, while guacamole is another colorful addition on top of several dishes.
The California Avocado Commission recommends washing avocados as well as your hands (and making sure you have disinfected all surfaces after cutting raw meat, poultry or eggs) before cutting up your avocados.
Avocado recipes to enjoy
Bean and Avocado Extravahamza Soup
By Sascha La Russo
Third place winner, Most Creative Avocado Dish, 2007 Avocado Festival
7 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
1 ham bone
½ cup ham pieces
5 ripe tomatoes or 1 (28-oz.) can diced stewed tomatoes
3 ripe Fallbrook avocados
1 package dry bean assortment
1 package black beans
3 garlic cloves
1 bunch celery
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
1-10 grinds of fresh black pepper (from peppermill)
1 tsp. marjoram
½ tsp. ground cayenne
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
This wonderful soup can also be made into a dip. You must presoak the beans overnight (or at least 8 hours) and then rinse thoroughly. You may use a crock-pot or a large saucepan.
To begin, sauté the chopped onion with some garlic and olive oil. Then, cut up all vegetables and set aside. Add water, broth and ham bone to pot. Bring to boil. Add beans; turn temperature to a low simmer. Add sautéed onions. Slowly add ham pieces and veggies, plus dry ingredients.
Simmer for three to four hours or on low in a crock-pot. Top soup with sour cream and garnish with fresh sliced avocado.
Trouw Family Avocitrus Pie
By Elise Trouw
Second place winner, Most Creative Avocado Dish, 2007 Avocado Festival
Note: Makes two pies
(2) 9-inch prepared graham cracker pie crusts
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 envelope lime gelatin
5 (14-oz.) cans sweetened, condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
In bowl, mix lemon juice and lime gelatin. Add condensed milk to mixture and mix. Peel and pit the avocados and fully mix in. Add heavy cream and mix in. Pour in crusts; level using spoon.
Chill for at least 2 hours.
Guacamole Del Diablo
By Forrest Breese
Honorable Mention (audience favorite) guacamole, 2007 Avocado Festival
4 to 5 Fallbrook avocados
½ tbsp. Fallbrook lime juice
1 tsp. salt
4 pinches white pepper
1 pinch celery salt
4 pinches black pepper
¼ olive oil
¼ cup Fallbrook Red Serrano pepper mash
Forrest made his guacamole with Serrano peppers he fermented at home. His guacamole is pureed.
First Place Guacamole
By Harriett Oppenborn
First place guacamole, 2007 Avocado Festival
3 avocados, peeled and pitted
2 limes, juiced
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. balsamic vinegar
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Splash of soy sauce
4 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
4 gloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. Parmesan cheese
5 green onions, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
Mash together avocados, lime juice, salt, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic, cheese and jalapeño. Refrigerate 3 hours at least with avocado pit in the guacamole to prevent discoloration. Enjoy!