All About Avocados
Let’s clear something up right away – contrary to popular belief, the avocado is a fruit. The green color of avocados, and their lack of sweetness, can trick you into thinking they’re vegetables; however, not only is an avocado a fruit, it’s a berry. Call it what you may, however, avocados are incredibly healthy and wonderfully versatile and, if you’re unfamiliar with this amazing fruit, it’s time to be introduced.
History of Avocados
Archaeologists have found evidence of wild-avocado consumption in central Mexico going back almost 10,000 years in central Mexico, and it is believed that people began cultivating avocados about 5,000 years ago. Fifteenth-century Spanish navigator Martin Fernandez De Encisco set out on his quest to discover the “New World,” and came upon a fruit in the port town of Yaharo, Mexico, that, he wrote, “looks like an orange but turns yellowish when it is ready to be eaten.” He went on to explain the wonderful flavor of the fruit, which tastes “like butter” and is “so good and pleasing to the palate.” Later, Spanish historian Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo discovered the fruit in the northern part of South America. He identified the avocado tree as a variation of a pear tree in Spain and said that the fruit, “is the color and shape of pears, and the rind somewhat thicker, but softer, and in the center of the fruit is a seed like a peeled chestnut.” He goes on to say that between the peel and the pit “is the part which is eaten, and is a paste very similar to butter and … of good taste.”
Neither Encisco nor Oviedo named the fruit, leaving that to explorer Pedro de Cieza de Leon who referred to it as “aguacate” in his mid-16th century writings and said that the fruit was widely used by the people from the Inca civilization. The Spanish conquistadors eventually brought avocados to Europe and sold them to other countries including England. However, the name avocado appeared for the first time in naturalist Sir Hans Sloane’s catalog of Jamaican plants, which was published in 1696. He described the tree and called it, “the avocado or alligator pear-tree, which grows in gardens and fields throughout Jamaica.”
Avocados in the United States
Henry Perrine, a horticulturist, first planted avocados in Florida in the 1830, although they didn’t become a commercial crop until 70 or 80 years later. While they were widely eaten in Florida, California and Hawaii, where they were grown, the rest of the country was ambivalent about the green fruit and the avocado didn’t start gaining country-wide popularity until the 1950s and ‘60s. By the 1990s, though, the California Avocado Commission had succeeded in spreading the word about the avocado’s nutritional value via TV commercials, convincing Americans that avocado-based guacamole was the perfect food for snacking at sporting events or while watching the game at home, leading sports-crazed Americans to embrace the avocado in all its incarnations.
Today, Americans consume over 80 million pounds of avocados per year, mainly in the form of guacamole, the dip that contains mashed avocados, a fair amount of salt, and anything else you have on hand.