While many of us love avocado, most of us are a little confused when it comes to recognising varieties, knowing what to look for when at the supermarket, and understanding how to ripen the fruit at home.
Which avo is this?
Our three main avocado varieties are Hass, Reed and Fuerte.
Although there are around 500 varieties of avocado in the world, New Zealand grows just five of them, and the one you are almost certainly most familiar with is the Hass. That’s because 95% of Kiwi plantings feature this variety. Hass avocados have a definite pear shape, and a bright-green ‘alligator-like’ skin when picked. As they ripen, their skin acquires a deep ebony gloss. While some Hass arrive a little earlier, they are most plentiful from the start of August, and serve us well as they are available right through until May.
Avo lovers enjoy the Reed variety (available February to June) for its large, round, uniform shape which makes for ease of slicing, and simplicity when arranging on a platter. Like the Hass, the Reed has the same bright-green, pebbly skin. Unlike its cousin, however, this avocado doesn’t change colour as it ripens, which makes selecting ready-to-eat fruit a little more difficult.
Very similar in shape to the Hass, the pear-like Fuerte has a smoother skin than its look-alike cousin but doesn’t change colour as it ripens. It graces our tables from July to October.
Which avocado should I choose?
Unlike most fruits, the avocado doesn’t ripen on the tree – which means it’s as hard as a rock when first picked. Supermarkets usually stock both freshly picked and ripe avocados – so which ones are best to buy? As it happens, both are good – but your choice will depend on how soon you wish to use the fruit. Ripe avocado are ready to consume immediately but if you want to save them for later you will need to store them in the vegetable section of your fridge (but only for 2-3 days or they will spoil). Unripe avocado will store longer, gradually ripening over a period of 4-10 days, with smaller fruit ripening sooner than larger ones.
Ready-to-eat avocados will differ in colour according to variety so, before you select, always ask your supplier what type of avocado they are selling. Once you know if the skin of the fruit you are looking at should be ebony or green, check each avocado for soundness. To do this, hold the fruit in the palm of your hand and gently inspect it for indentations (a sign that the avocado is bruised or decaying in places). If you are satisfied the avocado is undamaged, give it a gentle squeeze all over (don’t prod it in any one particular spot with your fingers or you will bruise it). If the entire fruit has a little ‘give’, it’s ready to take home and use.
How do I ripen my avocado at home?
Store your hard avocado in a warm room (such as your kitchen). The warmer the temperature, the faster the ripening occurs. If you want your avocados to ripen as fast as possible, pop them into a paper bag with an apple or a banana and turn down the lid. The apple and banana give off ethylene (a natural ‘ripening’ gas) which becomes trapped in the bag and helps soften the avocados.
Avocados are an absolute treat, especially in winter when mainstream produce can begin to pall. So bone up, choose wisely, and enjoy in a variety of ways!