It's the year of the avocado, and for good reason: Not only does this superfood help lower your risk of heart disease, control blood pressure, keep eyes healthy, and protect skin from UV damage, its nutty flavor and smooth texture also makes it surprisingly versatile. We love our avocados in smoothies, on toast, as the star ingredient in party dip, in salads, as a butter substitute in brownies and cookies… well, you get the idea.
We wanted to get to know our favorite fruit even better, so we asked Mark Garcia, chef, avo aficionado, and director of food service marketing for Avocados From Mexico, to share his wisdom:
1. Berry Interesting
This berry (yes, berry) is one of only a few fruits that doesn't start to ripen until after it's picked.
2. The Secret of the Stem
You can do a touch test to see if the avocado is ripe, or you can do this: Try to peel off the small stem. If it falls right off, then the fruit's ready to be opened, sliced, garnished with sea salt (or red pepper flakes for a little kick), and gobbled right up.
3. Rapid Ripening
Buying a hard avocado? Inevitable. Hoping it miraculously softens as soon as you get home from the grocery store? Impossible. But you can speed up the ripening process by placing the avocado along with an apple, banana, tomato, or cantaloupe into any kind of bag (no, it doesn't have to be paper). These fruits release ethylene, a gas that accelerates ripening. (Pro tip: Cantaloupe emits the largest amounts.) Make sure to properly seal the bag so that any gases the fruits emit are contained. After a day or two, your avocados should be just right – and practically begging to be turned into these delicious avocado egg cups.
4. Gorgeous Guacamole
You've made a heaping bowl of yummy guacamole, but your guests aren't coming over for another seven hours. Don't panic. You can add the juice of any citrus to slow down oxidation and help keep it green, or you can try an even more effective trick that chefs swear by: Pour some milk (whole is best) over the dip, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge. The milk creates a barrier between the guac and the air. When ready to serve, just pour out the milk, give the dip a good mix, and it should look just as fresh as it did hours earlier. How cool is that? (And now that you're an avo-expert, it's time to stop putting the pit in the dip - it's an old wives' tale and doesn't actually stop the guac from browning.
Because avocados are high-end produce and can cost up to $2 a pop, the last thing you want to do is waste any of their creamy goodness. Good thing they are freezer friendly! Slice them open, remove the pit and skin, place halves in a deflated freezer bag, and freeze them for up to one month. Because of the fruit's high (healthy) fat content, it should thaw in just 30 minutes.