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Holy Guacamole - Hass Avocados: Super Food for the Super Bowl

If you think that avocado sales are at their highest on holidays like the Fourth of July or Cinco de Mayo, you’re wrong -- avocados enjoy their greatest demand on Super Bowl Sunday.  This year, nearly 80 million pounds of avocados are expected to be served at Super Bowl parties and other events in New Jersey and nationwide, enough avocados to fill a football field from end zone to end zone 30 feet deep.  As many as that sounds, this year’s total sales will actually be 10% higher than last year’s and nine times higher than the 8 million pounds sold back in 2000.  That’s a lot of guacamole!  The record volumes expected this year are due to continued soaring demand and an enormous Mexican crop, about 25% higher than last season.

About Avocados

If I were stranded on a desert island and could have only one food, it would be the avocado. The rich, buttery-smooth flesh of an avocado is on a lot of people's lists as a delicious but fattening treat. It's true that avocados have a high oil content, but they are also packed with vitamins A, C, and E--primary vitamins in the antioxidant group that protect the cells in human tissue. A high protein content makes avocados a good meat substitute, and unlike animal fat, the fat is not saturated. The big surprise in avocados is how high they are in dietary fiber--they have one of the highest fiber contents of any fruit or vegetable.

Avocados grow abundantly in warm climates. Europeans discovered them when Cortez arrived on these shores in the sixteenth century, but avocados had been eaten for centuries by native Americans. Excavators have unearthed avocado pits in Peru that date to before AD 900.

When ripe, an avocado has pale yellow to gold flesh and a delicate, sweet, nutty flavor. Above the equator the fruit blooms between February and May, but it is harvested year round. Unlike most fruits, an avocado doesn't have to be picked at a certain peak time; it can remain on the tree quite a while. Like pears, avocados ripen only after they are picked, and the firm fruits ship well. Once a relatively expensive delicacy, avocados have steadily decreased in price as the fruit has become more widely available, and now they're quite reasonable.

A California variety, the famous Hass avocado is small-medium in size and oval in shape, with a very pebbled skin that goes from dark green to purplish black, a high oil content, and a buttery taste.  The Hass strain was discovered by a postman named Randolph Hass, who patented it in 1935. Consumers resisted it at first, but because of its distinctively nutty, rich taste, it's now the most popular variety in the U.S. and accounts for 80 percent of the California crop.

Selection and Storage

When selecting, choose an avocado free of scars and wrinkles, and don't squeeze the fruit or you'll bruise it.  Also examine the stem end -- if the avocado is ripe, the stem will pull right out. The best strategy is to buy avocados when they're still a bit green and firm and then ripen them at home.

To ripen, leave firm avocados out on the counter for a few days.  Early in the season, avocados will take 6-9 days to ripen and 5 days later in the season, as fruit left longer on the tree has matured to the point that it will ripen quickly after picking.  If you want to hasten the ripening process, put avocados in a paper bag or a drawer; some people think they ripen best wrapped in foil.

Don't refrigerate avocados, as they can turn to mush in as little as a day under refrigeration.  Avocado flesh exposed to the air will darken very quickly. Some people think that leaving the pit in prevents discoloration, but the primary factor in preventing discoloration is keeping air away from the flesh, so wrap a cut avocado in plastic, refrigerate it, and use it as soon as possible.  Peeled and sliced avocados should be sprinkled with lemon or lime juice to retard discoloration, and the citric acid will also bring out the flavor.

To peel, cut the avocado lengthwise around the pit; then rotate the two halves in opposite directions. Gently put the tip of a spoon under the pit; if it comes out easily, the avocado is ripe. You can scoop the flesh out of the shell with a spoon, but in many cases the avocado will peel like a banana -- just turn it over on the cut side and pull off the skin with your fingers.

When selecting, choose an avocado free of scars and wrinkles, and don't squeeze the fruit or you'll bruise it.  Also examine the stem end -- if the avocado is ripe, the stem will pull right out. The best strategy is to buy avocados when they're still a bit green and firm and then ripen them at home.

To ripen, leave firm avocados out on the counter for a few days.  Early in the season, avocados will take 6-9 days to ripen and 5 days later in the season, as fruit left longer on the tree has matured to the point that it will ripen quickly after picking.  If you want to hasten the ripening process, put avocados in a paper bag or a drawer; some people think they ripen best wrapped in foil.

Don't refrigerate avocados, as they can turn to mush in as little as a day under refrigeration.  Avocado flesh exposed to the air will darken very quickly. Some people think that leaving the pit in prevents discoloration, but the primary factor in preventing discoloration is keeping air away from the flesh, so wrap a cut avocado in plastic, refrigerate it, and use it as soon as possible.  Peeled and sliced avocados should be sprinkled with lemon or lime juice to retard discoloration, and the citric acid will also bring out the flavor.

To peel, cut the avocado lengthwise around the pit; then rotate the two halves in opposite directions. Gently put the tip of a spoon under the pit; if it comes out easily, the avocado is ripe. You can scoop the flesh out of the shell with a spoon, but in many cases the avocado will peel like a banana -- just turn it over on the cut side and pull off the skin with your fingers.

Preparing

Avocados are great with a sprinkle of lemon or lime juice and salt. Mashed avocado, of course, is the primary ingredient in guacamole, but the fruit is also delicious served with slices of ripe red tomato, or cut into slivers and added to tossed green salads.  For a pretty salad plate, cut avocados in half length wise, leaving skins on, and remove the pits.  Arrange on a bed of lettuce and fill the centers with crab, tuna, or chicken salad.  Garnish with additional raw fresh vegetables and serve with bread if desired.  An avocado puréed with a little lemon juice, salt, other seasonings, and a dab of olive oil makes a great creamy salad dressing for lettuce or other greens.  Avocados are also good on sandwiches.  Any combination of avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, turkey, and chicken makes a great sandwich.

To get into the Super Bowl zone, try my recipe below for a delicious and quick guacamole

Recipes

Speedy Guacamole

Other recipes from Produce Pete.

   

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