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Avocados

Avocados

Whether you're making guacamole, tacos, smoothies or salsas, avocados are an indispensable ingredient. With their mild flavor, smooth texture and excellent nutritional pedigree, they're unbeatable.

Nutritional Highlights

  • The average avocado contains many essential vitamins and minerals, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate, vitamins B6, C and K.
  • And as for guilt? You hardly need to feel it while snacking on this fruit. Though ¼ of an avocado provides about 80 calories — much of the calories come from monounsaturated fat.

History

Avocados are one of the wonders of the New World. Mayans revered them, and later on, European explorers used them as a butter substitute — a technique that many health experts still recommend today. Currently, most of the avocados you can find in the grocery store are grown in California. Did You Know?: An avocado is not a vegetable, but a fruit (technically, a large berry)!

Varieties

There are something like 80 varieties of avocado available in U.S. supermarkets, but the most common ones include:

  • Hass avocados — These are small, roundish and have a dark, rough skin. Why are they so popular? Well, besides having a creamy, light green flesh, Hass avocados are the only variety available all year long.
  • Fuerte avocados — This type is oblong and pear-shaped, with green, smooth skin.
  • Pinkerton avocados — Unlike most other varieties, the Pinkerton has a very small pit.
  • Florida avocados — Often marketed as the "SlimCado," this variety is huge, with tougher flesh and less taste.

When are Avocados in Season?

As a tropical fruit, avocados mostly peak in the summertime. If you're longing for guacamole during the long, dark days of winter, the Hass variety is your best bet.

How to Choose Avocados

When you squeeze them, ripe avocados feel soft and slightly yielding. They also tend to have somewhat darker skin. However, if you don't want to use your avocados immediately, choose harder ones, since these will take about a week to ripen.

How to Store Avocados

Treat your avocados almost like bananas: Store them at room temperature, and never refrigerate them!

How to Cook with Avocados

Prepping avocados is a snap. To begin, slice one in half lengthwise (avocados are so soft that you can do this with a butter knife). Next, twist the two halves apart, revealing the fruit's big pit. Once you've popped this out, you can scoop out the cool, green flesh with a spoon, or slice it with a knife and pull it out in sections. For a nice snack, you can sprinkle a little pepper on your avocado halves and eat them straight from the skin using a spoon.

Key Measurements

Most avocado-based recipes call for cups of sliced, scooped or blended avocado. A few may require whole fruits.

Substitutions

Probably the best substitute for avocado is cooked chayote squash. However, if you're making guacamole, you can also try trading avocado for blended peas, asparagus or broccoli.

Avocados in Recipes

As an ingredient, avocados make any recipe seem so much more decadent. For instance, they make this Healthified Creamy Avocado Potato Salad all but irresistible.

Or how about a Smoked Salmon-Avocado Sushi Salad? Try it with wasabi and a little ginger, and we dare you not to fall in love.

Finally, it's what you've been waiting for: guacamole. Healthified Garlic Guacamole, to be exact, which uses red pepper, salt, black pepper and lime juice to make each bite a little taste of summer — or follow the tip to make it with frozen peas to reduce calories and fat.

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