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Diane Miller

Avocados - All you wanted to know and more about this fruit

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Posted: June 15, 2007 5:40 p.m.
Updated: June 30, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    Most of our fruits and vegetables had their origins in far-off lands. But the avocado is a native of America. It has been a staple food in Mexico, Central, Northern and South America for centuries.
    Avocados are a fair source of vitamin C and contain iron and vitamins A and E. They’re very low in sodium, yet high in potassium. Avocados are also high in fat and contain over 188 calories per half.
    California and Florida are the top producing states for avocados. Many varieties are available from both states, some with dark skins and others with green skins. Whichever you buy, they all have the same luscious pale green flesh.
    Avocados, like many other fruits, are ripened off the tree. To test for ripeness, hold the fruit gently between cupped hands and press lightly. If the avocado gives or feels soft, it is ready for use. Don’t squeeze or pinch because avocados bruise easily.
    For immediate use, select avocados that are soft. Buy firm ones for later use. They will ripen in two to four days at room temperature. Avoid buying avocados with bruised or damaged skins.
    Ripe avocados should be stored in the refrigerator. Firm ones will ripen if left at room temperature. To speed ripening, place the avocados in a brown paper bag. This confines the natural fruit ripening gases given off by the fruit and hastens ripening.
    Brush the edges of a cut avocado with lemon or lime juice to prevent discoloration during storage. If possible, leave the peel on the slices and don’t remove the seed. Then store the cut avocado in a covered container or food storage bag.
    Extra avocados can be frozen as a puree for later use. Simply mash ripe avocados. Sugar can be added if desired. To prevent darkening, add one forth teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid to each quart of puree or one tablespoon lemon juice for each two pureed avocados. Then package in a moisture-vapor-resistant container. Whole or sliced avocados do not freeze well.
    When cutting an avocado, cut all the way around the avocado, down to the seed. Then, twist the halves slightly, to get them apart. Lift out the brown seed with the tip of a knife. Now you have two halves ready to serve in the shell, make into avocado balls or peel for slicing.
    For more information on food preparation, contact Diane at (912) 871-0504, dianem@uga.edu or www.ugaextension.com/bulloch/fcs.
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