Hola! Me llamo Alejandro Avocado, y… whoops, forgive me, por favor, I forget myself. My name is Alejandro Avocado. I am very proud to say I personally descended from the original avocado, grown 8,000-10,000 years ago in the state of Puebla, Mexico, southeast of Mexico City, and inland from the famous Gulf port of Veracruz. Whoever was in that cave in Puebla obviously enjoyed my ancestor a great deal, because soon there were avocados being cultivated in many parts of Central and South America.
For those of you who are archeology buffs, you’ll be fascinated to learn a water jug shaped like an avocado, dating to AD 900, was discovered in the pre-Incan city of Chan Chan, in what is now Peru. Anything as delectable as we are is bound to be a hit, wherever it goes – sort of like ABBA or Yanni. So we were soon spread all over the world. The earliest written account of my ancestors was penned by Martin Fernandez de Encisco, in 1518. The first time we appeared in writing in English was 1696, in Hans Sloane’s index of Jamaican plants. We arrived in Indonesia in 1750, Brazil in 1809, Lebanon in 1908, and South Africa and Australia in the late 19th century. Give us a tropical or Mediterranean climate, and away we go. As you would expect from a fruit that got its start in Mexico, avocado derives from an Aztecan word, ahuacatl (which, I’m slightly embarrassed to report, means “testicle.” As for how we came from there to avocado, it’s a long story – don’t ask me where the “v” and the “do” came in – if you think fruit can be strange, try language, my friend). We are sometimes referred to as the Alligator Pear, because our skin sports reptilian-style bumps, and we’re shaped like, well, you get the idea (hey, better a pear than a testicle, if you ask me). Many people in South America call us by our Quechua name, palta. I suspect many people imagine we grow on some sort of lowly bush. Not so. In fact, we are the fruit of the Persea Americana, a tall evergreen tree that can grow up to 69 feet in height (that’s 20 metres for those of you who prefer your measurements in metric). Today we’re cultivated in a number of places, from Vietnam to Hawaii, from the Philippines to Ecuador. Like our amigos, the banana, we are a climacteric fruit – that means we mature on the tree, but ripen off it. That’s why so many of us are hard when you find us in the supermarket. That’s OK – we’ll ripen soon enough after you take us home and store us at room temperature. If you’re in a hurry, just put us with some apples or bananas – they give off something call ethylene gas, and it hastens ripening.
In addition to being yummy, we are good for you. About 75% of our calories come from monounsaturated fat. On a 100 gram basis, we have 35% more potassium (which helps regulate blood pressure) than bananas. We are rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamin E and vitamin K. We have a high fiber content (75% insoluble and 25% soluble), and contain almost a quarter of the recommended daily amount of folate, a nutrient that contributes to heart health. High avocado intake was found in one study to lower blood cholesterol levels. After a seven-day, avocado-rich diet, patients suffering from mild hypercholesterolemia showed a 17% decrease in total cholesterol levels. The same subjects experienced a 22% decrease in LDL (harmful cholesterol), and an 11% increase in HDL (helpful cholesterol). Muy bueno, no? There are many ways to enjoy us. Vegetarians love us, for example, in sandwiches and salads as a substitute for meat, because of our subtly distinct taste and our high fat content. Many of you (even you Norteamericanos) are familiar with guacamole – just blend some nicely ripened avocado with some onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and the result is a rich-tasting guacamole, perfect as a dip. The next time you serve guacamole and want to impress your guests, tell them the word stem from the original Aztecan word (remember? It’s ahuacatl). When compounded with the ending – molli, the result is ahuacatlmolli. It didn’t take long for the Spanish to hear guacamole – and your New Year’s Eve dip was born! So that’s it for now. Enjoy the recipes.
Y viva Mexico!
Nutritional Avocado Recipes
HAWAIIAN AVOCADO DIP
pinch of basil
2 Tbsp (30mL) frozen pineapple concentrate
pinch of chives
pinch of sea salt
Blend ingredients in food processor or blender – serve with fruit.
2 avocadoes – mashed
¼ tsp (1mL) chili powder
2 Tbsp (30mL) salsa
¼ tsp (1mL) ground black pepper
2 Tbsp (30mL) mayonnaise salt to taste
Put everything together in a large bowl, mix well and salt to taste before serving.
5 mashed avocadoes
½ Cup (120mL) minced fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp (30mL) fresh lemon juice
¾ tsp (4mL) minced green onion salt and pepper to taste
Put everything in a large bowl and mix well. Serve immediately or store covered in the refrigerator.
BACON STUFFED AVOCADO
8 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
4 medium avocadoes
½ Cup (120mL) butter
¼ Cup (60mL) brown sugar
¼ Cup (60mL) white wine vinegar
¼ Cup (60mL) garlic puree
1 Tbsp (15mL) soy sauce
Slice the avocadoes in half; remove pits and brush with lemon juice. Fill the avocado with bacon. Combine all remaining ingredients and heat to boiling to produce sauce. Drizzle sauce over avocadoes and serve as desired.
AVOCADO AND CRAB MEAT SOUP
8 oz. can of crabmeat
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 Cups (960mL) of chicken stock
2 Cups (480mL) heavy cream
4 Tbsp (60mL) butter
1 Tbsp (15mL) flour
½ tsp (2ml) garlic powder salt and pepper to taste
Mash together the avocados and crab meat. Sauté the chopped onion in the butter then add the flour, garlic powder, and chicken stock. Whip until smooth. Add the avocado/crab mixture and simmer for twenty minutes. Add the cream, salt, and pepper.
AVOCADO TORTILLA SOUP
1 onion sliced
1 Cup (240mL) chicken broth
1 Cup (240mL) water
2 tsp (10mL) butter
½ tsp (2mL) fresh chopped cilantro
½ chopped avocado crushed tortilla chips
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion slices in butter until golden brown. Add chicken broth, water and chopped cilantro leaves. Simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into soup bowls and add avocado and tortilla chips.
Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fatsoluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-cartene and lutein, when consumed with other foods.
Avocados contain lutein which is an antioxidant that is great for the eyes. It helps to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. In addition to this, they contain many other antioxidants that can fight against free radicals in your body that can cause cancer. These antioxidants are so powerful that they can even reverse the signs of aging.
There are 13 vitamins that the body absolutely needs: vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate). Avocados naturally contain many of these vitamins.
The American Heart Association (AHA) Dietary Guidelines recommend a diet that includes at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, derives up to 30% of calories from fats (primarily unsaturated), and is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats and sodium, while rich in potassium. Avocados contain monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as potassium.
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