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"...the avocado is a food without rival among the fruits, the veritable fruit of paradise" ~ David Fairchild.

Persea Americana — ring a bell?

Well, that is the scientific name assigned to the natively Mexican Avocado tree. Belonging to the flowering plant family Lauraceae, this tree also bears fruit by the same name.

Typically, avocados are large bright-green/ pear-shaped berries with a leathery exterior and buttery interior engulfing a single seed. However, the shape, size, and colour may vary based on its variety and ripeness.

Avocados flourish in tropical and Mediterranean climates; Mexico is the leading producer, contributing 32% of the global supply.

Studies suggest that the superfood has been consumed from time immemorial (almost 5000 BC). Since then, the fruit has undergone many changes in both: name & form.

Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish naturalist, is credited with coining the term "avocado" in 1696 when he included the plant in a catalogue of Jamaican plants. He also referred to it as the "alligator pear tree."

Today, avocado is popular owing to its nutty taste, buttery texture & numerous nutritional benefits.

There are very many health benefits one can reap by consuming this lush fruit. An avocado contains 20 essential vitamins and minerals that boost haleness.

Healthy Fats - Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, especially oleic acid. This helps lower inflammation & cholesterol.

High in fibre - Since avocados are a good source of fibre, it makes for a healthier snacking option and also acts as an aid to the digestive system.

Absorption of vitamins and minerals - This is perhaps the greatest boon of an avocado! The monounsaturated fatty acids present in the pear-shaped fruit help the human body absorb ever-so-important vitamins such as A, D, E & K.

Good for the heart - Eating this fruit will ensure your body's cholesterol levels are in check as well as maintain blood triglycerides. This means, that consuming avocados lowers the risk of heat-related illnesses. Other health benefits include improved vision & lower chances of depression, Alzheimer's, arthritis, etc. Avocado oil when combined with Vitamin B12 works wonders for skin diseases like psoriasis. The pulp is often used to promote hair growth, whereas the seeds, bark, and leaves are used to relieve toothache.

People often complain about avocados being riper than desired. This feeling is an unpleasant one and can be avoided by following some simple steps.

Knowledge - Picking out the perfect avocado is subjective based on its future use. If it is going to be sliced and placed on toast or tossed in a salad, the avocado must have a bite to it. While guacamole requires a mushier texture.

Sight - In most cases, the riper and avocado gets, the darker it's exterior. Since avocados ripen quickly once plucked, timing is key. Choose a dark avocado if you want to utilize it right away when you get home. Choose one that is greener if you expect to use it in a few days. When looking for a ripe avocado, keep in mind that colour isn't the only thing to look for. Always test it by touch as well.

Touch - Squeezing an avocado gently in the palm of your hand will reveal a lot about its ripeness. The riper it is, the mushier it gets. The best practice is to keep in mind the time of consumption and anticipate its state by then. While buying multiple avocados, it is recommended to choose them with various degrees of ripeness. You should look at the texture of the avocado's skin as well as its colour. The skin should be slightly pebbled, but there should be no large indentations that could indicate that the fruit has been bruised.

Scratch the stem - Peel back the stem at the top of the avocado to make sure it's ripe and creamy on the inside. If the region beneath the avocado is green, it is OK to purchase. If the region around the avocado is brown, it's overripe and should be avoided.

Once purchased, it is integral to store the avocados in the right conditions to prevent spoilage. Avocados ripen quickly, place them in the refrigerator to make the ripening process tardy. Alternatively, to ripen the avocados, store them overnight in a paper bag with a ripe banana.

Cut avocados turn bad quickly once in contact with oxygen, brush the exposed avocado with lemon juice as the citric acid delays the oxidization process. These can then be sealed off in an airtight container until ready to use. A good tip would be to store the avocados in a cool dry place

Avocados have a mild flavour profile and ripen quickly upon plucking hence it is important to prevent them from rotting. Keep an eye out for these tell-tale signs of a bad avocado.

Damaged Skin - The skin of a rotting avocado will begin to turn darker as it ripens. The outer skin of the avocado will have dents upon over-ripening and might turn mushy. Check for cracks, dents, and bruises on the outer skin before purchasing. If the avocado leaves a dent upon a gentle squeeze, it might be rotting and unfit for consumption. 

Smell - A ripe avocado should have a slightly sweet aroma. If the avocado smells musky, mouldy, or rancid, it's rotten and should be discarded. Ripe avocados have a slightly spicy flavour, a pleasant fragrance, and a nutty flavour. As the fruit spoils, it may develop an unpleasant taste. If it has a bad taste or smell, it may have bacterial spoilage. Discard it.

A chemical odour and taste may indicate that it is rancid. This can happen if the fruit's unsaturated fat is harmed or broken down by oxygen or microbes.

Rancidity can result in the formation of potentially toxic compounds. Don't eat it if you suspect it's rancid. The flavour of steamed avocados varies, but it is usually easy to tell if they are past their prime based on taste. You can tell if an avocado has spoiled by its smell, taste, touch, and visual inspection.

Listen - When an avocado becomes overripe, the flesh separates from the pit. It's no longer good if you shake it and hear a faint rattling.

Grey streaks in the flesh - The flesh of a ready-to-eat avocado is bright green. Brown or black spots cover the flesh of a rotten one.

Grim lines in the flesh, on the other hand, are another sign of rotting. Despite not being rotted, some avocados, particularly those harvested from young trees, may have black streaks. If the fruit looks good and doesn't taste bad, it's safe to eat.

Similarly, when an avocado ripens, the texture can become stringy. Even if there are no other signs of decay, it's not too bad. A fibrous texture may also be referred to by the growing conditions.

Formation of mould - Avocado mould is typically white or grey in colour and appears fluffy. If you are allergic to it, you may inhale mould spores, causing breathing problems.

Avocados with mould on the outside should not be purchased because the mould can enter the flesh and cause decay. If you cut an avocado open and see mould, throw away the entire fruit. Even if you only see mould in one place, it can easily spread through the soft flesh.

Fret not, the magic of an avocado lies in its functionality. An overripe avocado can be employed as a face mask to rejuvenate the skin, as a hair mask to strengthen hair follicles, or even as an ingredient in avocado mousse, brownies & ice - cream.

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