Maybe it’s because I grew up in California with parents who were Southern California natives, but avocados have always been a part of my diet. We had them on salads, in omelets, as guacamole, and, of course, we had avocado toast before it was a cultural phenomenon. (When Mom didn’t feel like working hard for a meal, the suggestion might be “Want some avocado on toast?” Of course we did!)
Lately, I’ve realized that perhaps my California avocado-loving roots have given me some insider knowledge about caring for these delicious fruits (yes, they are a fruit — a berry, in fact). In advance of the kick-off of avocado season and as a Cinco de Mayo preview, I thought I’d share some awesome avocado advice from experts.
1. Avocados aren’t ripe until you forget about them for a day or two, then they’re over-ripe, right?
What if you could help them ripen to fit your schedule? You can! You can put avocados in a paper bag with a ripe banana, kiwi fruit, or a red or golden delicious apple so that the hormone ethylene these fruits exude can accelerate ripening. I usually just heap my avocados in the fruit bowl with the bananas arranged ever-so-gracefully atop them and pull out the ripe ones when we’re both ready.
2. So, how do you tell when they’re really, truly ripe and not faking it?
A ripe avocado should still be firm but yield to a soft squeeze. In addition, you can try the stem test. The stem will be firmly adhered to an unripe avocado, but if you can easily remove it to see green below, it’s ready to enjoy.
3. What if they all ripen at once? No worries.
I learned this trick from my parents and thought everyone knew! Wrap ripe avocados individually in newspaper, then store them in the produce drawer in the fridge. They can stay at the peak of ripeness for about a week, allowing you to have delicious, perfectly ripe avocados every day. You’re welcome! However, do not refrigerate unripe avocados as the cold halts the ripening process.
4. Against all odds, you only use half an avocado.
What’s the best way to store the rest? A friend gave us a handy plastic avocado-shaped container to store those leftovers (and we sometimes even need to use it!). But lacking that handy device, you just need to keep air away from the fruit. Leave the skin on the unused half and squeeze some lemon juice on the cut surface to reduce oxidation. Then wrap with plastic to keep air from getting to the fruit. The lemon juice helps keep avocados from browning, both in storage and as guacamole. Speaking of guac, to keep the bowl of deliciousness from browning before you’re ready to eat it, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to keep air from getting to it. You’ve heard putting the pit in the guac can help it from turning brown, but experts say it just doesn’t work. Sorry!
5. You love California avocados, but they’re only in season from spring through early fall.
How will you get by? How about by freezing them? Mash the avocados to your preferred texture, being sure to include lemon juice to reduce oxidation. Place the mashed avocados in plastic storage bags, squeeze out all the air, and zip firmly shut. Put bags in the freezer, then when the season is over or you need more avocado than you have on hand, thaw on the counter and enjoy. You can also freeze halved avocados by skinning them and removing the pits, squeezing lemon juice on them, then pressing plastic wrap around every contour, including the depression where the pit was. Place the wrapped halves in a plastic zip bag, remove the air, and freeze.
6. Have some avocado with your chocolate cake.
Yes, you can use avocado to replace fat in baking. Avocados are rich with unsaturated fats, along with other vitamins and minerals, which is more than you can say for many fats. There are lots of recipes at californiaavocado.com for desserts and much more.
If anyone in the Mesilla Valley knows avocado, it’s our friends at La Posta de Mesilla!
They’ve been serving up delicious New Mexican food since 1939. Owner Jerean Hutchinson shared recipes for guacamole salad and salsa de jalapeño from the La Posta Cook Book, a classic still available in their gift shop. The guacamole can be used as a salad as directed or just heap it in a bowl and dig in with tortilla chips. Or try some special add-ins that Jerean suggests to really spice up your guac.
“I love to enhance my guacamole for parties and special gatherings,” Jerean says. “You can add some pomegranate seeds or chopped strawberries for an awesome appetizer during Christmas and Valentine’s Day. You could show some creativity by making guacamole deviled eggs or adding crispy bacon (I love bacon!) and blue cheese. Or try guacamole with roasted corn. Adding seafood such as chopped shrimp or crab also brings an upscale touch to an already great appetizer. The sky’s the limit for creating unique guacamole feasts, but for me the healthy avocado with simple, clean ingredients is my favorite go-to. And don’t forget the chips or veggie sticks!”
1 large ripe avocado
1 fresh tomato (or substitute canned)
1 small onion, chopped, or onion flakes
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon salsa de jalapeño
(see next recipe) or green chile sauce
½ teaspoon lime juice
Mash avocado with fork until smooth. Add lime juice and mix. Add finely chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, salt, and chile sauce. Mix well. Serve chilled on lettuce leaves with tortilla chips. To make your own tortilla chips, cut corn tortillas into pie-slice shapes. Drop in very hot fat and fry until crisp. Drain well and salt lightly.
Salsa de Jalapeño
12 jalapeño peppers
1 cup tomatoes, fresh or canned
½ teaspoon garlic salt
Boil peppers for 10 minutes, then drain and remove stems and seeds (wear rubber gloves!). Mix in tomatoes and garlic salt and put through food chopper. You can also use this recipe on tacos or refried beans or enjoy as a salsa with tortilla chips.
Written and photography by Cheryl Fallstead
Originally published in Neighbors magazine | 2021
Posted by LasCruces.com