Avocados have been cultivated since around 8,000 BC and according to the Whole Foods Companion, the English word avocado is a corruption of a Nahuatlan Mexican and Aztec word meaning ‘testicle tree’. It was given this name not only after its supposed resemblance to testicles (and because it grew in pairs), but also because it supposedly excited sexual passion.
I can’t say I’ve directly experienced this, more’s the pity, but avocados do excite my tastebuds. As a kid I was put off by their buttery texture but fortunately my palate has matured and I now delight in avocado season, which in Australia is now. Excellent in salads, as a dip, to use instead of butter in a sandwich or even in desserts, avocado is flexible and bursting with goodness.
Avocados are high in B vitamins, vitamin E, carotenoids, manganese, copper, zinc, magnesium, folate, vitamin K, iron, potassium, calcium and fibre. Plus, they contain a lot of health-promoting fats, which make up roughly 70 to 88% of their total calories.
Please don’t be put off by avocado’s high fat content as, contrary to what the media likes to promote, the right types of fat are absolutely essential for good health – and avocados have them in abundance. They are extremely high in omega-9 (or oleic acid, which has a similar composition to olive oil), phytosterols and monounsaturated fats, which, among other things, have the following properties:
- help absorb carotenoids (which help protect cell walls from free radical damage and have a roll in building immunity and in reproductive health)
- help in blood sugar regulation
- have anti-inflammatory properties
- are beneficial to heart health by helping to lower the risk of heart disease
some facts about avocados:
- there are over 500 varieties of avocado (only a few look like testicles)
- avocados are among the safest veggies to buy non-organic due to their thick skin, which protects them from pesticide build-up
- technically a fruit, avocados are now classed as a vegetable
- different varieties have different oil contents – Hass avocados have a higher oil content than most varieties
- when added to a meal, avocados improve the absorption of nutrients like beta-carotene, lycopene and various carotenoid antioxidants
- the darker, green flesh contains the highest concentration of nutrients
- avocado oil is nutritious and has a high smoking point, so excellent for cooking
- avocados mature on the tree but won’t ripen until picked
- putting avocados in a paper bag or next to bananas will help them ripen quicker
- so they last longer, ripen avocados on the bench, then put them in the fridge
- once cut, avocados will begin to brown. To prevent this, brush with lemon or lime juice, or keep the half with the pip intact and cover or keep in an air-tight container
- avocados become bitter if cooked, but can be carefully warmed
simple avocado recipes
The tangy taste of guacamole makes me think of lazy summer days and beers by the beach – perfect for bringing a smile of summer to a dark winter’s day. The great thing about guacamole is that it is quick, simple and you can alter it to suit your taste. I like the freshness of lime so added lots, but only like a touch of raw onion as I’m not a fan of a strong oniony taste. Play as you see fit!
2 ripe avocados
100g fresh tomatoes, chopped
½ fresh lime (or lemon)
1 tbsp red onion, very finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
¼ tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the avocados in half and scoop out with a spoon
- Squeeze some lime juice over the avocado (to stop it browning) and mash roughly with a fork
- Add the tomatoes, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine
- Taste, and add more lime, coriander, cumin or salt/pepper as desired.
I loved this recipe from anjasfood4thought.com as these truffles are made with nourishing wholefoods and didn’t sound sickly like some of the other recipes I looked at. They are rich, but are a delectable combination of flavours and you wouldn’t know they contained avocado. You could easily add a teaspoon or two of grated orange rind or a ½ tsp of chilli to spice things up.
avocado and chocolate truffles
½ ripe avocado
½ cup ground almonds*
¼ cup chopped dried peaches (or another dried fruit like apricots)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for coating
¼ tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- Combine the ground almonds, dried fruit, cocoa powder and cardamom in a food processor and blend to a fine meal
- Add the syrup and avocado and blend until well combined
- Transfer to a bowl and put in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to make the truffles easier to roll
- This is the messy bit! Roll into balls about the size of a small walnut by grabbing a blob with your fingers and rolling it over a cocoa-dusted plate
- Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. Can be frozen.
The same ingredients would also make a delicious and healthy chocolate mousse, perhaps adding a little extra avocado to make it creamier.
Makes around 15
*you can make your own almond meal using a coffee grinder or a good quality food processor or thermomix – ⅓ cup of whole almonds makes ½ cup almond meal