By Bill Turner
I don’t think I ever had an avocado as a child, a teenager or even as a young adult. Maybe the odd guacamole at a Mexican restaurant, but nothing more. How did I survive? Or, have I been nutritionally damaged for life? Can I ever catch up? All of these nutritional changes are enough to drive you nuts. Eggs were bad, now they’re good. And now I need avocados. It all reminds me of a favorite Paul Simon song, “Slip-Slidin’ Away.” There is a great line, “You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip slidin’ away.”
A TROPICAL FRUIT AMERICANS ARE CRAVING
As usual, I have ended my musing about the past and have fallen in line with the rest and I’m now consuming more avocados. I’ve even learned some interesting things about this new trend. An avocado is a fruit that grows on trees, which I did not know. It is native to South America and dates to Incan times. They require a tropical climate. The trees die if the temperature falls below freezing, even for a day. In the U.S. they are grown primarily in California and Florida, however, Mexico is the big producer — they grow about five times more than the U.S.
Like bananas, avocados grow to full size on the tree, but don’t begin to ripen until picked. If they are shipped and stored in refrigerated containers at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the ripening process is arrested. Once at room temperature, they will ripen in about a week, just like a banana. Most of the time we buy avocados green and hard, and we leave them out to soften. However, if you want to slow the ripening process, keep some of what you buy in the fridge, so they don’t all ripen at once.
Here is the big surprise — avocado consumption in the U.S. is skyrocketing. In 1960, Americans consumed about ¼ pound of avocados per year, and most of that was by hippies in California. By 2010, consumption increased to over 3 pounds per year and today, it’s over 6 pounds per person per year! In the U.S. today, we consume over 4 billion avocados. At about $1 each, this is now a major league industry.
THE FACTS BEHIND THIS SUPERFOOD
There is a reason for all of this. We’ve discovered that avocados are a superfood. They contain monounsaturated (good) oils and tons of vitamins and minerals. Evidence indicates that monounsaturated fats help lower LDL cholesterol and improve absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Avocados are an especially good source of potassium, which is important for the regulatory systems in your body, especially the heart. Avocados have 50 percent more potassium, gram for gram, than bananas. You want to add avocados to your diet.
Avocados are also not as “fattening” as commonly thought — a whole avocado has only about 250 calories. One tablespoon of avocado has 23 calories. Mayonnaise, which we slather willy-nilly on everything, has 90 calories per tablespoon.
I guess you can’t write about avocados without talking about guacamole — the biggest use of the fruit. The basic rule for guacamole is to make sure you have fresh avocados. Prepare it yourself or find a supermarket deli that makes it fresh. If you have a Mexican market nearby, they will have it. There are some reasonably good prepackaged products but they have preservatives and stuff and never taste as good as homemade.
The basic recipe for guacamoles is easy: five avocados, one tomato and one onion, both diced finely, salt, pepper and lime juice. From that point, the arguments begin. Is it chunky or smooth, what about cilantro and garlic, do we need some jalapeño, etc.? There is even a “Poor Man’s Guac” with avocado, salt, pepper and lime juice. The most exciting new addition is the bacon garnish. This award-winning improvement entails adding bits of crispy bacon to the top before serving. It is hard to make a mistake with guacamole, so just experiment and make sure you have some good tortilla chips.
A NEW TWIST ON SOME OLD FAVORITES
Here are 10 other fun things to do with avocados:
- Open-Face Avocado and Tomato Sandwich: One of my favorite lunches is half an avocado open face on toast with a slice of tomato and salt and pepper. That’s only about 225 calories, all in. If you’re really hungry, have two.
- Avocado Slices on Sandwiches: Use sliced avocado on any sandwich in place of mayo or butter. Try adding avocado to a BLT; this is one of my favorites.
- Pesto Pasta with Avocado: Mix diced avocado with the pesto sauce before tossing with the pasta. Add a little crushed red pepper if you like.
- Tuna salad with Avocado: Try making a simple tuna salad with avocado instead of mayo, or use half mayo and half avocado. The texture is the same, but the flavor is interesting. For a classy presentation, put the tuna salad back into the saved peel.
- Hummus with Avocado: If you make your own hummus, use avocado instead of olive oil. For prepackaged products, mash diced avocado into the hummus.
- Avocado and Scrambled Eggs: Try adding diced avocado to your scrambled eggs. Kick it up a notch with a dash of chopped jalapeño.
- Avocado Deviled Eggs: Hard boil six eggs, extract the yolks and mix with one avocado, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Prepare the eggs and garnish with bacon bits.
- Avocado Smoothie: Make your favorite smoothie and add an avocado, or go to our website, atthelakemagazine.com, click on archives and check out the spring 2016 issue of the magazine. On page 100, you’ll see the article about green smoothies. Simply add an avocado to the basic green smoothie recipe.
- Avocado Quesadillas: Always a crowd pleaser, simply spread half of an avocado on one tortilla, add cheese, tomato, salt, green onion. Add the other tortilla and grill until toasty.
- Avocado Facial Care: For a quick facial, mix half an avocado with one tablespoon of honey and apply to your freshly washed face. Let those avocado oils with their fat soluble vitamins seep into your skin for about 30 minutes while you watch the evening news.