Tasty and versatile, avocados come in about ten varieties, of which Hass is the most popular. Originally from Mexico, the term “avocado” comes from the Spanish aguacate, derived from the Nahuatl word Ahuacatl which designates a testicle, given the similarity of shape between the fruit and this organ. The largest avocado plantations are found in Mexico, Guatemala and the West Indies.
Although we take it more for a vegetable, the avocado is a fruit from a botanical point of view, because what is often called the kernel at its heart is biologically a seed. Surprisingly, this fruit does not ripen until it has been picked. Ideally, it is left to ripen at room temperature and can be stored with an apple or a banana to promote ripening. To prevent its flesh from darkening when cut, it is best to drizzle it with a little lemon juice.
An excellent energy supply
About 100g of avocado flesh provides about 169 calories. With its lipid content amounting to 16% of our daily intake, it is one of the most caloric fruits.
Avocados are a good source of fiber, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, vitamins A, C, E, K, B6 and B9
Avocados’ richness in monounsaturated fatty acids is similar to that of olive oil and its beneficial effects are recognized for cardiovascular protection and the proper functioning of the digestive system. Avocados also serve as an ally against LDL cholesterol and the vitamin K it contains has a positive impact on stabilizing blood sugar.
Avocado flesh lends itself well to various dishes including the popular guacamole, while avocado oil is suitable in dressings and mayonnaise as well as in cooking, as it is highly resistant to oxidation and can be heated to high temperatures without degrading quickly.
Fun fact: it's amusing to know that on a single American Super Bowl night, no less than 54 million kilograms of avocados are consumed in the United States, in the form of guacamole!
“Poor man’s butter”
While avocado is considered a luxury product in Western countries, it is nevertheless part of the daily menu in Central America and the West Indies where it is often nicknamed ‘“poor man’s butter.”
Known for more than 8,000 years
Mexico is the world’s leading avocado producer, representing 30% of the world’s supply, with 90% of its production coming from the southwest of the country, Michoacán. This fruit of Mexican origin was already part of the Mesoamericans’ diet more than 8,000 years ago. Evidence of its consumption has been found in the Mexican cave of Coxcatlan and is believed to date back some 9,000 years. The Spaniards discovered its qualities in the 17th century and the French some 300 years later. We find a mention of this fruit in the book of the Spanish navigator Martin Fernandez de Enciso dating from 1519. The term “avocado” was coined by the Scottish naturalist doctor Hans Sloane, in his repertory of Jamaican plants of 1696. The avocado came to be very popular in Florida in the United States from 1833 and, circa 1856, in California.
Today the avocado grows as much in the West Indies as it does in Africa, Australia, Spain and even Corsica.