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June Nos. 1&2 2006
Family: Lauraceae: Scientific Name: Persea americana Miller
Common Names: avocado, avocado-pear, aguacate, palta (Spanish), alligator pear (English); zaboca/zaboka
(Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago);pear (British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands).
Avocados were first world with suitable environ- yellow-green, deep-green or very
cultivated in South
mental conditions. Avocados
dark-green, reddish-purple, or so
America with later
grow abundantly in warm
dark a purple as to appear almost
migration to Mexico. European
climates. West Indian varieties
black It is sometimes speckled
sailors traveling to the New
thrive in humid, tropical
with tiny yellow dots, may be
climates. Avocados need some
smooth or pebbled, glossy or
protection from high winds
dull, thin or leathery and up to
which may break the branches.
1/4 inch (6 mm) thick, pliable or
Avocados are now grown in
granular and brittle. In some
virtually all tropical, sub-
fruits, immediately beneath the
tropical, and warm temperate
skin there is a thin layer of soft,
areas with well drained soils and
bright-green flesh, but generally
relative frost freedom. In most
the flesh is entirely pale to rich-
parts of Europe it is still
yellow, buttery and bland or
World used avocados as their
something of a luxury, whereas
nutlike in flavour. The single
form of butter. It was unflat-
in the local areas of production it
seed is oblate, round, conical or
teringly known as alligator pear,
has become a familiar commo-
ovoid, 2 to 2 1\2 inches (5-6.4 cm)
midshipman's butter, vegetable
long, hard and heavy, ivory in
butter, or sometimes as butter
The fruit is normally pear-
color but enclosed in two brown,
pear. Avocados were carried not
shaped often more or less
thin, papery seed-coats often
only to the West Indies (where it
necked, oval, or nearly round
adhering to the flesh cavity,
was first reported in Jamaica in
and may be 3 to 13 inches (7.5-33
while the seed slips out readily.
1696), but to nearly all parts of
cm) long and up to 6 inches (15
Some fruits are seedless because
the tropical and subtropical
cm) wide. The skin may be
of lack of pollination or other

nyam news
June Nos. 1&2, 2006
factors. Avocados ripen only
The more subtropical rather than
isoleucine, 3.4; leucine, 5.5;
after they are picked and the firm
tropical varieties have a higher
lysine, 4.3; methionine, 2.1;
fruits ship well. The leaves of the
oil content. Due to its fat content
phenylalanine, 3.5; threonine, 2.9;
Mexican race are strongly anise-
(unlike other furits), it is
tryptophan, 0; tyrosine, 2.3;
scented but the West Indian
included in the Fats and Oils
valine, 4.6; aspartic acid, 22.6;
varieties are scentless. West
Group, one of the six Caribbean
glutamic acid, 12.3; alanine, 6.0;
Indian type avocados produce
Food Groups.
glycine, 4.0; proline, 3.9; serine,
enormous, smooth, round, glossy
Avocados contribute valu-
green fruits that are low in oil
able calories, protein, vitamins A,
The following data high-
and weigh up to 2 pounds. The
C, and E-primary vitamins in the
lights some of the nutritional
majority of the avocados grown
antioxidant group. However,
contribution of avocados.
in the West Indies, Bahamas and
they are cholesterol and sodium
On the phytochemical front,
Bermuda are of the West Indian
free. Avocados also contain some
avocados contain glutathione, an
race. In the Carib-bean, avocados
saturated fatty acids: myristic
antioxidant with anti-carcino-
are abundant between August-
level may be 1%, palmitic, 7.2,
genic potential. They also contain
December, with a peak time
14.1 or 22.1%; stearic, 0.2, 0.6 or
a significant amount of a
around July to August.
1.7%. Of the unsaturated fatty
cholesterol-lowering phyto-
acids, palmitoleic may range
sterol called betasitosterol.
from 5.5 to 11.0%; oleic may be
Browning of the flesh of freshly
51.9, 70.7 or 80.97%, linoleic, 9.3,
cut avocado fruits is caused by
11.2 or 14.3%. Although the
polyphenol oxidase isoenzymes.
There are several varieties of
banana is thought of as an
avocados. Each type has its
exemplary potassium source, the
Food Uses
unique flavour and texture. In
avocado actually supplies 60%
California and Florida alone,
more potassium, ounce for
Everyone knows that
there are two dozen varieties,
ounce. These velvety "vegetable
Mexican and southwestern
ranging in size from a few ounces
fruits" are high in fibre, and
cuisines include a lot of
to several pounds, with skins
provide substantial amounts of
avocados, but Indians in tropical
bright green to black, some
folate (folic acid), vitamin B6, and
America break avocados in half,
smooth, some pebbly in texture.
pantothenic acid, as well as some
add salt and eat with tortillas and
iron, copper, and magnesium.
a cup of coffee as a complete
Nutritive Value
Amino acids of the pulp (N = 16
meal. In North America,
p. 100) are recorded as: arginine,
Avocados seem almost too
3.4; cystine, 0: histidine, 1.8;
Food Value Per 100g1
luscious to be healthful. The rich,
buttery-smooth flesh of an
161 kcal
11 mg
avocado is on a lot of people's
Carbohydrate (total)
7.4 g
1.0 mg
Dietary Fibre
2.1 g
10 mg
lists as a delicious but fattening
2.0 g
599 mg
treat. It's true that avocados have
Total fat
15.3 g
Vitamin A
61 R.E.
a high oil content, but the fat they
2.4 g
Total Folacin
62 μ
contain is highly monoun-
0.0 g
8 mg
saturated, the kind that's
Vitamin E
61 R.E.

associated with a healthy heart.
1CFNI, “Food Composition Tables for Use in the English-speaking Caribbean”
(CFNI, 1995), pp 37-38.

nyam news
June Nos. 1&2, 2006
avocados are primarily served as
Shopping, Storage and
salad vegetables, merely halved
and garnished with seasonings,
lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar,
mayonnaise or other dressings.
Often the halves are stuffed with
The best strategy is to buy
shrimp, crab or other seafood.
avocados when they're still a bit
Avocado flesh may be sliced or
green and firm and ripen them at
diced and combined with
home. Choose unbruised, unscarred,
tomatoes, cucumbers or other
unblemished fruit with no
vegetables and served as a salad.
wrinkles, and don't squeeze the
The seasoned flesh is sometimes
fruit or you will bruise it. Look at
used as a sandwich filling.
Avocado, cream cheese and
the stem end: if the avocado is
pineapple juice may be blended as
ripe, the stem will pull right out.
a creamy dressing for fruit salads.
If the avocado is rock hard, it
cooled. If mashed by hand, the
Mexican guacamole, a blend
will need a few days to ripen (see
fork must be a silver one to avoid
of the pureed flesh with lemon or
“Storage,” below). If an avocado
discoloring the avocado. A New
lime juice, onion juice or powder,
yields slightly to gentle pressure,
Zealand recipe for avocado ice
minced garlic, chili powder or
it is ripe enough to slice. If
cream is a blend of avocado,
Tabasco sauce, and salt and
pressing the fruit leaves a small
lemon juice, orange juice, grated
pepper has become a widely
dent, it is too ripe to slice, but is
orange rind, milk, cream, sugar
popular “dip” for crackers, potato
suitable for mashing. If pressing
and salt, frozen, beaten until
chips or other snacks. The
leaves a large dent, the fruit is
creamy, and frozen again. Some
ingredients of guacamole may
overripe, and the flesh will have
Oriental people in Hawaii also
vary and some people add
darkened and spoiled.
prefer the avocado sweetened
mayonnaise. Because of its tannin with sugar and they combine it
content, the flesh becomes bitter if with fruits such as pineapple, Storage
cooked. Diced avocado can be orange, grapefruit, dates, or
Hard avocados ripen at room
added to lemon-flavoured gelatin banana. In Java, avocado flesh is temperature in three to six days.
after cooling and before it is set, thoroughly mixed with strong To speed up the process, place
and chunks of avocado may be black coffee, sweetened and eaten them in a paper bag or a drawer,
added to hot foods such as soup, as a dessert.
preferably with a tomato. Leave
stew, chili or omelettes just before
In the Caribbean, this highly firm avocados out on the counter
seasonal produce is relished by for a few days to ripen. Some
In Guatemalan restaurants, a almost everyone whenever it is people think they ripen best
ripe avocado is placed on the table available. As expected, con- wrapped in foil.
when a hot dish is served and the sumption is highest during peak
Fruit left longer on the tree
diner scoops out the flesh and times of availability and it is not has matured to the point that it
adds it just before eating. In Brazil, unusual for one to consume a will ripen quickly after picking.
the avocado is regarded more as a sizeable portion. It can be eaten Do not refrigerate avocados
true fruit than as a vegetable and alone, as a complement to many because they will never ripen.
is used mostly mashed in sherbet, one-pot or individually prepared Keep ripe avocados covered in the
ice cream, or milk shakes. dishes. It can also be used as a refrigerator and use within two to
Avocado flesh is added to heated sandwich filling or combined with three days. They can turn to mush
ice cream mixes (such as boiled other local foods, e.g. farine, and in as little as a day under
custard) only after they have used as a snack.

nyam news
June Nos. 1&2, 2006
refrigetation. Avocado flesh a paring knife to score it into
Avocados are great with a
exposed to the air will darken very peelable strips. Cut the flesh into sprinkle of lemon or lime juice and
quickly. Some people think that thin slices, or into chunks.
salt. Mashed avocados is the
leaving the pit in prevents dis-
The flesh of cut avocado turns primary ingredient in guacamole,
coloring, but the primary factor is dark within a few minutes when but the fruit is also delicious sliced
keeping air away from the flesh – exposed to air. This doesn't affect and served with slices of ripe red
so wrap a cut avocado in plastic, nutrition or flavor, but makes the tomato, or cut into slivers and
refrigerate, and use it as soon as avocado look less appetizing. To added to tossed green salads. For a
possible. Peeled and sliced delay darkening, rub slices with pretty salad plate, cut avocados in
avocados should be sprinkled with lemon or lime juice, and add the half length wise, leaving skins on,
lemon or lime juice to retard juice to mashed avocado when and remove the pits. Arrange on a
discoloration; the citric acid also making guacamole or similar dips. bed of lettuce and fill the centers
brings out the flavour.
Pressing a plastic wrap firmly over with crab, tuna, or chicken salad.
the cut surface of a halved Garnish with additional raw fresh
avocado, or onto the surface of a vegetables and serve with bread if
bowl of mashed avocado, will desired. An avocado pureed with a
To pit an avocado, cut it deter darkening.
little lemon juice, salt, other
lengthwise all the way around
To peel, cut the avocado seasonings, and perhaps a dab of
(working around the pit) and length wise around the pit, and olive oil makes a great creamy
gently twist the two halves apart. rotate the two halves in opposite salad dressing for lettuce or other
Tap the blade of a heavy knife into directions. Gently put the tip of a greens.
the pit, and twist gently to release spoon under the pit; if it comes out
Avocados are also good in
the pit from the flesh. To skin and easily, the avocado is ripe. You can sandwiches. Any combination of
slice the fruit, place the halves face scoop the flesh out of the shell with avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato,
down and peel off the skin. (If the a spoon, but in many cases the turkey, and chicken makes a great
flesh is very soft, scoop it out of the avocado will peel like a banana, sandwich.

skin with a spoon instead.) If the just turn it over on the cut side and
skin is too tough to peel easily, use pull off the skin with your fingers.
For further information contact:
Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute
Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute
UWI Campus, P.O. Box 140, Kingston 7
UWI Campus, St. Augustine
Jamaica, W.I.
Trinidad, W.I.
Visit us at our website: http://www.paho.org/cfni