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Avocado Pears

Information about Avocado Pears plus Avocado Recipes collection

 

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May 2008

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Avocado pears, also sometimes called alligator pears, due to the  rough green skin (depending on the variety)  grow on  trees belonging to the family Lauraceae (Persea Americana). Although botanically classed as a fruit, they are mostly used as a vegetable in savoury recipes.

Origin and History of Avocado Pears

Avocado trees  and are native to Mexico and South America and have been cultivated there for over 7,000 years.  Indeed, the name is derived  from the Aztec word ahuacatl which means "testicle" - a name given partly because of its shape and partly due to the ancient belief that the fruit has aphrodisiac and fertility generating properties. 

The earliest known written reference to avocado in Europe dates back to 1519 in a book by Martín Fernández de Enciso, a Spanish navigator and geographer. Other early Spanish explorers discovered that theliquid excreted from the seed becomes red when exposed to air could be used as ink and some documents written with avocado ink still survive today. 

A highly commercial crop from early days, Europeans introduced it to many other parts of the world including the West Indies and the Philippines by the end of the 16th Century; the Dutch East Indies and Mauritius by the late 18th Century;  Singapore, India and Hawaii by the late 19th Century.  It was also introduced into Florida and California by the late 19th Century.  Today is is grown commercially throughout tropical America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, parts of the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa.

 

Cultivation and Harvesting Avocado Pears

 

Avocado trees are evergreens and grow to 20 metres (65 ft).  Although the flowers are unremarkable and relatively small at 5–10 millimetres wide, they produce the pear-shaped fruit which can grow to 20cm/8-inches long with weights up to 1kg/2.2lb which have a large central seed.  Mature trees  yield about 120 avocados every year.

Whilst there are over 500 varieties of avocado, they all stem from  three ‘races’ - the Mexican, the Guatemalan and the West Indian - each with their own characteristics.  The Mexican variety  bear small, dark, smooth-skinned fruit;  the Guatemalan has larger fruit with thick, rough skin; the West Indian bear large fruit with light green skins.

Avocado trees cannot tolerate frost  although although the Hass varieties can tolerate temperatures down to −1°C.   In general, the trees require deep, well aerated soil and a mild climate.  Because it takes 4–6 years for a plant propagated by seed to bear fruit plus the fact that the resulting plant will be unlikely to produce the same quality fruit as the parent plant,  commercial orchards are created using grafted trees and rootstocks.

Because avocado fruit can ripen off the tree (climacteric fruit) they can be picked when they are still hard and green and shipped under cool conditions, making them a perfect fruit for export. However, they must be mature when picked in order to ripen properly. 

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Buying and Storing Avocado Pears

Avocado skin colour ranges from bright green to green-brown to almost black and from very smooth to quite knobbly and its flesh ranges from greenish yellow to golden yellow when ripe. 

They must be fully ripe before they can be used however, because of the harvesting process (see above), they are sometimes sold "unripe" in markets and stores, so if you need to use them straight away, you should be careful when selecting.  To test for ripeness place the avocado gently in the  palm of your hand and apply gentle pressure.  A good specimen will yield slightly but still be quite firm. If pressing leaves a dent it means the fruit is very ripe and suitable for mashing.

If bought when hard (unripe), avocados will usually ripen at room temperature within 2-3 days,  although this can be speeded up by placing them in a paper bag with a banana.

Once they are at the desired  ripeness, they can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Avocado Nutritional Values and Cooking with Avocado

A whole medium avocado contains approximately 21 grams of fat, though most of it is monounsaturated fat. Avocados a. Avocados are rich in B vitamins,  vitamin E and vitamin K.  They have the highest fibre content of all fruit and have 60% more potassium than bananas. They also have higher fat  content than most other fruit though this shouldn't be of concern as it is mainly monounsaturated.

If you've never dealt with a fresh avocado, there are a couple of things worth noting:-

1. The flesh can turn brown quite quickly after exposure to air but coating with lime or lemon juice once they are peeled prevents discolouration.

2. There is a very large stone in the centre of the fruit which is best removed before to process the flesh in whatever way is required. The best way to do this is to cut completely around the fruit lengthways, then holding both halves, twist in opposite directions. The seed will remain in one half.  Then with the avocado on a flat surface , using a sharp knife,  "chop" into the seed - the knife will stick in the seed. Twist the knife and the seed should come out (attached to the knife). Click here for a video on how to prepare fresh avocados.

3. Due it its richness, you should avoid serving it with heavy sauces or cream and try to use ingredients which will cut through and enhance the creaminess and flavour such as vinaigrettes.

4. Avocados are not sweet like most fruit and is generally not used in desserts but more often in savoury dishes.

The hollow left by the removal of the large seed is a natural receptacle for fillings from a simple vinaigrette which can be served as a starter, to more substantial ingredients such as chicken or seafood.

Click here for lots of Avocado Pear Recipes

 

 

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