Last Friday was National Avocado Day so I thought it was only fitting that I dedicate this newsletter to one of my favorite foods, the avocado. And if you think you know everything there is to know about avocados, think again. I’m pretty sure I’ve uncovered a few facts that may surprise you. One of them definitely surprised me!
So let’s start with the basics. You may already know this but avocados are actually a fruit. The avocado (a term that refers to both the tree and the fruit) is a tropical tree that grows green pear shaped fruit. The fruit is technically a berry with one large seed. Because of their pear shape and bumpy, green skin, avocados have also been called alligator pears. I think I like the name avocado better which leads me to one of the surprising facts.
The word avocado actually originated in the native language of the Aztecs. And do you know what avocado means in their language? It means testicle. Yep, you read that right…..testicle! Surprised?? I know….I did not see that one coming either!
As you may have guessed, the name came about because of the shape of the fruit but the Aztecs also believed that avocados were a strong aphrodisiac. We now know that avocados are not a true aphrodisiac but the high fat content is important in the production of testosterone so maybe they are sort of an aphrodisiac?? TMI???
There are many types of avocados but the most common variety is the Hass avocado. While some avocados are grown in California and Florida, the majority of the avocados found in the grocery store come from south central Mexico. The reason being is this region of Mexico has the best year round growing climate. That being said, if you can get a hold of some avocados from actor Jamie Foxx’s avocado farm in California, go for it. It’s rumored that he has a man who “whispers” to the avocados and that’s why they taste so good. Avocado whisperer??? What will they think of next?
When it comes to nutrition, avocados are loaded with it. They are high in fiber, potassium (even more than a banana), B6, Vitamin C and folate. Avocados are also rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeathanthin which provide antioxidant protection for your eyes. These carotenoids are found in the dark green flesh on the inside of the peel which is why it’s important to scrape as much of the flesh out of the peel as you can. You definitely don’t want to miss out on all that goodness!
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats which we love. Because of the high fat content, avocados help with the absorption of other fat soluble carotenoids like beta carotene. Carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens are high in beta carotene but contain very little fat so when eaten alone, the absorption of these nutrients is low. However, because these veggies are fat soluble, when you eat them in combination with avocados, studies have shown that you can triple the absorption of carotenoids.
Avocados are typically picked when they are not ripe which is why they can be rock hard when you buy them in the store. It’s important to select avocados that are firm to the touch but have a slight give to them. The best way to check for firmness is to place the whole avocado in the palm of your hand and give it a gentle squeeze. Try not to use just your thumb though because you are much more likely to bruise the little guy. You can also tell if an avocado is ripe by peeling back the small stem at the top of the avocado. If it pulls away easily and is green underneath, the avocado is good to go!
When it comes to preventing an avocado from turning brown, there is no shortage of suggestions. I have heard things like freezing it, placing the avocado half in a shallow dish of water or drizzling lemon juice on it. Honestly, all I do is put the cut avocado in a glass jar with a lid and stick it in the fridge. It will usually keep for several days before any discoloration starts to happen.
These days avocados have become incredibly popular not only because of the high nutrient value but also because avocados are so versatile when it comes to using them in recipes. They have a delicious, creamy richness that works well in dips, salads, soups and even desserts. And let’s not forget about guacamole!
One of my favorite ways to use avocados is in a blended soup and I just happen to have a delicious recipe that I want to share with you today. The recipe for Chilled Creamy Red Pepper Soup is courtesy of one of my good friends, Chef Kim. She is a master at creating delicious recipes using whole food ingredients and today’s recipe is no exception. What I love about this soup is that it all comes together in the blender and can be served chilled or at room temperature. It’s perfect for this time of year!
I have made this recipe as is but I have also used white beans or macadamia nuts in place of the cauliflower to add a little more protein. And because I like a little spice in my soup, I add a few dashes of hot sauce to the mix. If you want more yummy recipes to try, be sure to check out Kim’s website here.
As you can see there is seemingly no end to the long list of health benefits that the avocado is capable of delivering plus they make every dish taste even better. So give this recipe a try because I think you’ll agree, the avocado just might be one of the best superfoods on the planet!
Did you know that August 2-8 is National Farmers Market week? Why not head out to the market this weekend and show your farmers some love 😉
If you live in Tucson, the Heirloom Farmers Market has multiple markets every weekend and you can check out the locations here.
Chilled Creamy Red Pepper Soup
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup steamed or thawed, frozen cauliflower
1/4 cup yellow onion
1 cup pure water
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup cilantro
2 tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Core and quarter the tomato and add to a blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste. Add more water if needed to reach your desired consistency.
Chill for an hour to allow the flavors to combine. Pour into two serving bowls and garnish with cilantro and avocado.