Researchers tell us that avocados were readily consumed over 10,000 years ago in parts of Mexico and that some of the middle American tribes, such as the Mayans, began cultivating them about 5,000 years ago. In fact, the 14th month of the Mayan calendar is represented by the symbol for the ahuacatl.
When the Spaniards discovered these green wonders, they gobbled them up and transported the strange new finds back to Europe. Some titled Irish naturalist seemed to come up with the word “avocado” in the late 1600s. After that, depending on where the fruit was grown, it was tagged with such names as alligator fruit and butter fruit. Soon, it became obvious that there were many varieties of avocados.
This buttery and healthy fruit made its way to our shores in the early 1800s, and soon avocado farms began to spring up in Florida, California and other southern hot spots. Despite a brief setback in the 1980s during the low-fat diet craze, this dynamic fruit continued to rise in popularity.
As many health benefits were discovered, the avocado has now become the low carb go-to food. Not only is it a huge supplier of antioxidants, vitamin K and folate, it also adds vitamins B and C, as well potassium to your diet. In fact, there is more potassium in an avocado than a banana! Although it is a high-fat food, it contains the good heart-healthy fat — not the bad boy variety.
As far as protein goes, you will get about 5 percent of your daily allotment if you eat one cup. My 94-year-young mother read that it was great food for the aging brain and memory, and now she makes sure she has a slice or two every day.
I hate to admit it, but in my early years I always pushed avocado aside when I saw it staring up at me on a plate. I couldn’t imagine why my mother and her friends made such a fuss when they would spot it on a menu. “So good, but so fattening” was their usual remark as they gobbled it down. All the while I would be thinking “No taste, weird color, why waste your time?” Things changed for me when I discovered guacamole — and I have been a fan ever since.
Jamie Foxx has stated that “Perfect happiness is when the pool is 92 degrees and an avocado farm.” He might be onto something. True avocado aficionados spend a lot of time searching for the perfect specimens. I can’t count the times that I have left the grocery empty handed after browsing through the avocado bin — looking for just the perfect avocado that would be suitable for immediate consumption. Seems like they are struggling on death’s bed or hard enough to use as a baseball.
The rule of thumb: Plan ahead and buy firm avocados that will ripen at room temperature in a few days. And don’t forget about them. Nothing worse than cutting into an avocado to discover the color green no longer exists!
People say they have all kinds of solutions for keeping cut avocados from turning brown. I think the best trick is to squeeze fresh lemon juice on the cut half and wrap tightly in plastic wrap before refrigerating. One friend has good luck putting her cut avocado half in a cup of full water before refrigerating.
So what is stopping you? Go ahead and grab that ahuacatl and indulge. If you need a perfect afternoon pick-me-up during the heat of summer or an extra perk up for your noon sandwich, just slice up an avocado. You will probably find some peace and love!
Here are some of my favorite summer ways to get your avocado in.
This is a favorite dinnertime salad that my family loves to throw together on hot nights. You can use about any meat that you would like. It is also good with grilled chicken or grilled beef strips.
Greek Shrimp and Avocado Salad
6 cups of baby salad greens
1 pint red cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 yellow pepper sliced in strips
1 can of organic chickpeas, drained
1½ seedless cucumbers, peeled, quartered and then sliced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp lime zest
3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 to 3 Haas avocados, cubed
2 lbs. shrimp, grilled or sautéed (I use Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle)
1/2 cup top grade olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper, ground
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp fresh mint
Toss together tomatoes, chickpeas, pepper, cucumbers and diced onion in a large salad bowl. Add lime zest, parsley and gently toss. Add desire amount of dressing with the feta and gently toss to evenly coat. Refrigerate up to one hour and add avocado and shrimp and toss gently to mix. Serve on a bed of mixed greens.
For the dressing:
In a blender (or mixing bowl with a whisk), blend olive oil, lime juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper until mixture is well emulsified. Stir in basil and oregano and mint and pulse blend a couple of times.
This guacamole recipe is one of my favorites! We use it every year for Teen Cooking Camp at the Higher Ed Center — and the kids scrape the bottom of the bowl!
Guacamole Teen Supreme
Makes about 2 cups
Using a large knife, halve 3 avocados.
Remove the avocado pits, then use a large spoon to scoop the flesh into a medium-sized bowl.
Add 1/2 small onion, minced
Gently crush together using a large spoon
Add following to avocado/onion mix and stir together gently:
2 cloves of garlic, pressed with garlic press
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1/2 chopped yellow or orange bell pepper
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the mixture and let stand for a few minutes before serving. Perfect as dip for tostados or to spread on sandwiches.
Note: This guacamole is meant to be chunky, so you do not need to use a food processor.
This is a fast, delicious and healthy hummus perfect for a quick appetizer or snack. It makes enough for a crowd and needs to be enjoyed soon after it is made. I usually halve the recipe when making for four people.
Avocado White Bean Dip with Roasted Garlic
2 heads of garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cans of white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed in colander
4 cups of fresh basil leaves
2 cubed avocados (peel and pit of course)
Fresh squeezed juice from 2 lemons (or limes)
A couple dashes of favorite hot sauce
1½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Put heads of garlic in aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and wrap up in foil like a packet. Put in baking dish and bake around 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and let packet cool. When cool enough, pull the cloves apart and squeeze them out of their skin into food processor.
Put rest of ingredients in processor and blend until smooth.
Garnish with fresh basil and bacon bits before serving.
Great with veggie sticks or toasted pita wedges. Feeds a crowd!
Note: You can halve this recipe if you want less. This hummus does not keep well after day it is made due to the color of avocado.
Note: If you don’t have time to roast your garlic, try using the minced garlic that comes packed in oil. Taste as you add — to your liking.
Jennifer King Ferreira grew up in Kingsport, where she received her first cooking experiences from her grandmother, Genevieve Shivell. She is the past owner of the Abingdon General Store and Plum Alley Eatery, a gourmet store and restaurant in Abingdon, Va., and serves as marketing and public relations specialist for the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center and the Cooking Along the Crooked Road Culinary Program.