A standout among fruits

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Mar 23, 2011 - 04:26 PM

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If the praises of the avocado could be put to music what a song it would be. The avocado is a sight to behold, with its green to purple to black skin with green-yellow shading and its yellow-green flesh that treats the palate, with its satiny buttery texture, a unique mild flavor. At its peak the avocado brings joy through the last mouthful.

Is the avocado a fruit, vegetable or berry? Well, it is actually a member of the berry family, and it is a fruit. One of the earliest fruits consumed in Mesoamerica, tt dates back almost 10,000 years in the Coxcatlan region of Puebla in Central Mexico, and from there it spread around the world. Today the avocado is among the most important and traded tropical fruit in the world. Mexico is still its major producer; California is the major producer in the United States.

The avocado got its name from the Spanish explorers. They couldn’t pronounce the Aztec word for the fruit known as ahuacati. Through the years and in various countries, this pear-shaped fruit was called avocet, alligator pear, palta and, in this country, custard apple, butter pear and laurel peach. George Washington wrote in 1751 that agovago pears were abundant and popular in Barbados, thus another name has been used. At the turn of the 20th century, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave it its official name, avocado.

The first avocado plants—avocados grow on trees—in this country were planted in Florida in 1833 but did not become a commercial crop until the 1900s. Except for California, Florida and Hawaii where avocados were commonly grown, most consumers shied away from them. Finally in the 1950s, this fruit became popular as a salad item and its consumption became more widespread. Today avocados are used not only in salads and for guacamole but also in breads, desserts, main dishes, and in non-culinary creams for facials and body massages.