Avocados sport  many advantages

The avocado provides “good” fats, and that is making the fruit (That’s right; it’s really a fruit.) a favorite with those wanting a more healthful diet.

Besides being naturally sodium-free, cholesterol-free, rich in monounsaturated fats — the same kind in olive oil — and a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin A, avocados also help the body absorb more fat-soluble nutrients from other foods, too.

The avocado is the fruit of a tree native to the Western Hemisphere from Mexico to the Andes. There are many varieties of avocados, but most found in the United States come either from California or Florida.

Most of California’s crop is made up of the Haas variety, which has a dark pebbly skin. The Florida varieties have bright green, smooth skins.

The main difference between California and Florida avocados is their size — Florida ones are lots larger and, consequently, higher in calories. However, California avocados have a higher fat percentage, so if measured by weight, they are actually the higher in calories. Another difference is that the Haas variety will turn dark green or black as it ripens, but most Florida varieties don’t change color, according to the California Avocado Commission and the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.

Interesting facts

  • The avocado doesn’t ripen on the tree, but after harvesting. A ripe avocado yields to gentle pressure.
  • Unripe avocados take three to eight days to ripen at room temperature. To speed up the process, place in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana.
  • Store ripe avocados in the refrigerator for two to three days. Like bananas and apples, cut, mashed or sliced avocado turns brown when exposed to air. Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice and tightly cover. It can be stored in the fridge for only a day.
  • Avocado is also known as an alligator pear because of its shape and green color.
  • Before cutting an avocado, wash the outside thoroughly under running water or with a produce wash.
  • Whole or sliced avocados don’t freeze well, but avocado puré e can be frozen. It may be slightly watery when thawed.

American-grown avocados are at their peak season now — a perfect time to try recipes featuring the produce.

If you’re looking for a cool summer topping for grilled chicken or fish, consider combining avocado and mango.

The combo makes a tasty, healthful and colorful accompaniment.

Sources: University of Florida, Florida Cooperative Extension Service; California Avocado Commission; Haas Avocado Board, avocadocentral.com; specialtyproduce.com.