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How To Choose A Hass Avocado

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How do you choose the best Hass avocado?  Avocado maturity is not the same as ripeness.  It is hard to know when an avocado is mature enough to be picked.  Maturity is really related to its seasonality.   The harvest varies in different locations and by year because of the natural criteria of winter such as cold weather and rain or lack of rain.  There will be different volumes picked, along with different start and end dates.  What is mature now will be different than what is mature later in the season.  San Diego will be mature enough to harvest in February/March and the season will go through June. As you go north the maturity levels will overlap with Santa Barbara in May/June and by June/July many areas of California will be maturing at the same time.  The northern Hass avocado season can sometimes go into November and even wrap around into the next year when the southern California Hass season will start up again.

It is important to know there will be overlap from December to March with imported Hass avocados from Mexico and Chile where it is summer during our winter.  The problem is that the Hass avocados in the store are not always labeled so it is good to ask your produce person where they are from.  Even though we love the California Hass avocado, now is really the best time for the Mexican Hass avocado with its high oil content.  If you want to support the California avocado business try the Fuerte .

The skin on a mature fruit will lose some of its glossiness and become darker and the color of the flesh will deepen ever so slightly from yellow to gold. It will also slice smoothly and the seed coat will be thin and brown instead of fleshy and white.

An immature fruit will not have the oily flavor we associate with a good avocado and may even taste watery or bland. Other signs of an avocado picked before maturity are uneven ripening where part of the fruit is soft, the flesh towards the stem is sunken or the flesh will cling to the pit. Look for big shoulders at the top of the avocado near the stem with a round or full shape.

Avocados should be ripened at room temperature and the speed of ripening depends on the maturity of the avocado and the geography where they are from.  Remember California avocados from San Diego where the first crop develops will taste the best earliest in the year, think April/May.  As the months go on avocados from the central coast and even farther north will develop the high oil content and flavor we expect from a California Hass avocado.

Each avocado you buy will most likely ripen in a different time period so experiment with the time it takes to ripen.  To speed up the process you can put an avocado in a paper bag with an apple. As a general rule firm fruit that is light green will take about 5-7 days to ripen. Fruit that is dark green, almost black and starting to soften will take about 2-5 days to ripen. Dark green or black skin that yields to gentle pressure at the stem is ripe and will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Avocados should be stored at a moderate temperature of 45-55 degrees. Putting avocados in the coldest part of your refrigerator will “burn them”.  Black spots that appear in the flesh are caused by storage in cold temperatures so make sure to take the avocado out of the refrigerator to finish ripening. If you want to prepare the avocado in advance, cut it in half and then press plastic wrap onto the surface to keep the air out. You can also squeeze lemon or lime juice on a cut avocado with the pit still intact. Place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.

A 1-oz. serving of avocado contains only 0.5 grams saturated fat and is trans-fat, cholesterol and sodium-free.  Avocados are loaded with nutrients such as vitamin K, C, E, Potassium and Fiber.

Have some fun and educate yourself at the same time by starting a rapport with your local produce person.  Ask questions about what farm your produce comes from, where that farm is located and how to pick the best produce.  If they don’t know the answer they can easily find out for you.  The feedback you give really does affect the stores buying decisions.

Try some delicious ruby red grapefruit with slices of avocados and pea shoots or arugula in this simple spring salad.



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