ALL ABOUT AVOCADOS: THE GREEN GOLD!
Although for many of us avocado maintains its status as a mysterious object, for many others (estimators growing year by year) it has earned a good place on the weekly shopping list. If I had to explain its taste to someone who has never tasted it, I would say that without seasoning it doesn’t taste great; but with a pinch of salt and a few drops of lemon, it turns into a delicious side dish. And just think about it, with a little effort what delights could you invent: if you want to know all about avocados, you are in the right place.
Now let’s see what the green gold is made of
A medium-sized fruit can weigh from 200 to 300 grams, although there are much larger specimens.
In 100 g of this small arsenal we have:
- Calories 165 kcal
- Fat 15 grams of which:
Saturated fatty acids 2,1 g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids 1,8 g
Monounsaturated fatty acids 10 g
- Carbohydrates 9 grams of which:
Dietary fiber 7 g
Sugar 0,7 g
- Proteins 2,1 g
The pros of Avocado
The avocado madness is born both for its versatility in the kitchen and for its decidedly healthy properties. The paradox is that, its first characteristic is being very fat (about 15 g of fat in 100 g of product). So you may wonder how such a caloric food can be just as beneficial? Simple, because its fat content makes part of the ‘good’ category, with high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, useful to counteract inflammation and keep our circulatory system healthy. In addition to many substances of high biological value such as carotenoids, tocopherol and beta-site sterol, or as Vitamin E, C, B9, K1, and minerals such as zinc, selenium and potassium. All these substances help to strengthen our immune defenses, to fight against cardiovascular diseases, infertility, cataracts and other eye diseases, dry skin and hair, etc. But it is only the tip of the iceberg; it provides us very valuable glutathione which is recognized as an excellent fortifier for the immune system and an effective detoxifier; and, strategically important for keeping appetite at bay, gives a feeling of prolonged satiety.
The cons of Avocado
In fact with such a premise we would want to eat pounds of it, and indeed on the Web they often call it “the fat that does not make you fat”. Certainly beware of those, who advise you to eat an avocado each day: first, for reasons inherent to the low living standards of the populations who manage its cultivation in Mexico and Central America, it would be an unethical choice; because most of the fruits on the market comes from the arid areas of Central America, where water is seriously scarce. Thus, instead of giving priority to people, we give priority to investments; and green gold, requires a lot of water to be able to grow (for just one avocado you need about 300 liters of water). The second reason is related to the shape: if you are not an athlete, or not following a diet with very low carbohydrate intakes (diets such as paleo or ketogenic, which allow very few carbohydrates – maximum 20% of total daily calories) and if yours is a sedentary lifestyle, all that extra fat will soon be accumulated under your skin.
Apart from its high calories, another disadvantage is its price, given that it is normally set at € 4.00-8.00 per kg: this change in price depends on factors that vary from the origin, the degree of maturation, whether it is organic or not.
How much we should eat
For these reasons I do not recommend eating it more than once or twice a week, and at most half an avocado per serving. But be careful, even on such occasions you should not use it to accompany processed, fatty carbohydrates and made with refined flours (pastas, crackers, pizzas etc). It is true that you can introduce it in dessert recipes, but if you are overweight, do not think your nutritionist would applaud you: they are still sugars and fats, and their frequent union in the body only hurts the liver, pancreas and your image on the mirror. And do not think about putting it in the recipes of the foods to be cooked, you would lose most of its properties… except its fat. For example, I use it with veg based whole wheat pasta dishes to enjoy cold, such as “penne al pesto”; or with light second courses and/or meals made up of salad-veggies. Therefore, to benefit from its miraculous properties without suffering the negative ones, you should use it as a “substitute”. I mean, if you like a salad rich in avocados, to make it a real healthy choice, you should not season it with further oil. Likewise, if you like to put it in pasta dishes, you should consider to reduce the amount of oil to a minimum.
How to choose the right avocado
At this point, those who have already become acquainted with the avocado, will know very well that not all fruits are found in the same point of maturation, and picking the ripe but not overripe avocado, requires a considerable level of experience. And even a palette of colors in your handbag! If you are examining a fruit, whose skin has become dark green, evenly tending slightly to brown, and gently yields under a slight pressure of the fingers, it means that it is ripe; on the contrary if instead of yielding, it sinks and has uneven brown spots, with some white dot around the stem (probable presence of mold), then you should put that avocado back in its place: unfortunately it is overripe. In fact, the stem is a good indicator when the vigilant presence of the seller is rather “military”, not allowing us to touch the fruit: if it is dark brown the fruit is too ripe, dark green is excellent, light green or yellowish means that it is unripe.
How to save when buying
Thanks to the laws of the free market system, sometimes products go on sale and then, know about how avocados should be preserved, becomes a matter of vital importance.
On such occasions I get down to work: I also buy 7-8 together, but certainly not to finish them in 3 days in a row. Since I have to tell you all about avocados, and since I will never recommend you eating pasta, salami or chocolate every single day, even for avocados I won’t make exceptions. So 1-2 times a week is already a good consumption, please grit your teeth! When I cut a big fruit whose weight is 200 grams or more, we eat it in 2, half immediately and the other later (no matter when, because it will rest in the freezer): believe me, if you don’t have to dine with only guacamole, half an avocado for two people can be quite satisfying; and if you want to see a full plate you can possibly enrich it with cucumber or zucchini, in addition to the usual cherry tomatoes. So those 7-8 large avocados, paid at most 3 euros per kg, can meet our needs for about 6-8 weeks. One last piece of useful advice for the advocates of “I would like to buy bio but I can’t”: there is no need to spend large sums on the organic avocados, because under normal conditions the plant is quite resistant, neither specific care nor chemical products against pest attacks are required; therefore it can be eaten safely after a simple wash. Not for nothing is the number 1 in the Clean 15 ranking of 2018 (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean-fifteen.php).
PART 2) HOW TO STORE CORRECTLY AVOCADOS
A single avocado can cost as much as 1.5-2 euros, so for a person like me who is already opposed to “parsley squander”, wasting such a pricey food would simply be unacceptable. Avocado, however, is not precious because of its high cost, but rather because it is a nutrient-dense fruit. Yep, although we consume it as a vegetable, in reality it is a fruit, very rich in nutrients, so much so that it is also called ‘green gold’. However, there is another reason why it is so sought after: with its bright color it is very photogenic, and as you all know, photographing and sharing what we eat on the social media has become a must for many. We all want a selfie with avocado slices or dips and we want to do it in every season. Unfortunately, as always, this is a disruption to the fragile balance of things, as most of the fruit on the market comes from the arid areas of Central America, where water is seriously scarce.
But we have an easy, effortless and very cheap solution for this matter: limiting our consumption when it is not the harvest season for our region.
When to eat it
Originally from Central America, avocado has been successfully cultivated in Africa, Australia, Europe and in Asia for a long time. There are hundreds of varieties in the world, while the local ones are mainly called Hass, Pickerton, Bacon, Fuerte. However, domestic production fails to meet the great demand, so its import instead of slowing down expands every year. Try to consume only seasonal avocados that grow in your country/continent. It is a very long period that goes from October to June (For Europe area – various species, different harvest periods). This is not only to be ethical and in solidarity with the peoples of the exporting countries, who certainly do not follow a culinary trend, and on the contrary do not have many other food alternatives for a balanced diet; but also in order not to contribute to increasing CO2 emissions with transport: which affects climate change, favoring the raising of temperatures responsible for drought, which in turn causes a significant drop in the harvest of so many fruits and vegetables, including the adored avocado. If we really love it, we must stop eating it at least a few months, or learn how to conserve it properly.
How to store them
Sometimes you will find very mature ones at discount, to be consumed by the very next day, as they rot quickly. The soft avocados should be washed, dried, cut in two halves without wasting time and then you should remove the pulp and blend it with a few drops of lemon juice: a simple process to protect it from the inevitable darkening – caused by oxidation – from the moment you cut the fruit. Then the lemony pulp should be placed in small containers to be placed in the freezer compartment. I use glass jars, but you can also use reusable silicone bags for more space.
The important thing is not to pile it all together, on the contrary: divide it into single-serving portions since, once thawed, the avocado cannot be stored for more than 12-24 hours. My small record was to taste a “4 months old avocado” conserved with this process and I can honestly say that it was very good: ideal for sauces and creams like guacamole. The only drawback is not being able to use it in recipes where the fruit need to be served in halves: the inevitable breaking of the cell walls during the phases of refrigeration and thawing, make it release the water, becoming soft to the touch and unaesthetic to the view.
When it happens to deal with the unripe fruits, as hard as rocks so to be clear, it requires a little more attention. Meanwhile, you have two options to choose from: make the fruit ripen slowly while waiting for the natural course of the process (4-10 days), or consume them shortly by altering the atmospheric conditions (1-5 days). In the first case, all you have to do is place them in a dark, dry place at room temperature, turning them every so often, to prevent them from getting damaged by mutual contact. For the second case, I teach you a little trick: the avocado is part of the fruits defined climacteric, i.e. those that continue to mature once detached from the plant; in the meantime, these fruits emanate ethylene, and the more they have at their disposal, the faster the process will take place; therefore if you insert the fruit in a paper bag, so as to keep the ethylene released, and let it rest at room temperature (about 20°C) or more, the gas concentration will increase; this will facilitate a rapid ripening, about 2 – 5 days (it will depend on the temperature, the external humidity and the degree of initial maturation of the fruit). To stress the situation even more, I advise you to put an apple or a banana inside the same bag: as they are other climacteric fruits, with great capacity to give off ethylene, they will act as ‘catalysts’, making you gain even one day. These are the only methods to speed up the process. Some people recommend to put the unripe fruits in the oven and let them “ripen” in 10 minutes: no way! Even if at the end you will have a soft avocado, please be aware that by doing so, you are not riping your avocado but just cooking it. Embracing the idea of “if it is not ready today, then I will eat it tomorrow” is very useful: waiting and craving, enrich even the final taste, don’t you think?
At other times, it may be necessary to know how to slow down this process. In that case, to stop the maturation of those that are softening a little too quickly, take them out of the paper bags and place them in the refrigerator inside the special fruit drawers, that’s all. But don’t forget to consume them within 5 days; and if you do not plan to eat them within this period, do not take unnecessary risk and freeze them.
The happy conclusion is that we can store them safely for long periods, reducing the need of buying the imported ones.
Now that you know all about avocados, get ready to put what you’ve learned into practice: here is the recipe of guacamole.
Enjoy your meal and good revolution to all
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