The fruit that wants to be a vegetable
I would like to take you on a different kind of adventure, a mystery
adventure. I say mystery because it is where you will find a fruit that
acts like a vegetable and has many aliases. A fruit that was thought
to be bad for you but is truly good. A fruit that once had a reputation
for being an aphrodisiac and because of this it wasnÕt purchased by
anyone wishing to protect their image. A fruit that never gets ripe
on the tree, has over a thousand varieties, and is pollinated by bats.
It was once considered a luxury fruit and only served to royalty and
in Brazil is wrapped up and given as a wedding present. This is the
fruit called the alligator pear.
did the alligator pear get its name? The English living in Jamaica first
called it the alligator pear. Some speculate that they were comparing
the skin to that of an alligator. European sailors in the 1700s called
it midshipman's butter or butter pears because they liked to spread
it on hardtack biscuits. The Dutch called it avocaat; Spain abogado;
France avocatier; Trinidad and Tobago zaboca. The alligator pear has
many aliases, but some of us that just donÕt know any better call them
pears seem almost too luscious to be healthful, but the fat they contain
is highly monounsaturated, the kind that's associated with a healthy
heart. Alligator pears are also rich in vitamin E, another heart helper.
Although the banana is thought of as an exemplary potassium source,
the avocado actually supplies 60% more potassium, ounce for ounce. These
velvety Òvegetable fruitsÓ are high in fiber, and provide substantial
amounts of folate (folic acid), vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid, as
well as some iron, copper, and magnesium. Not only are they delicious
to eat, but they are also a nutritious addition to a healthy diet. Hass
alligator pears or avocados are cholesterol-free, sodium-free, and low
in saturated fat. They're a nutrient dense food that offers potassium,
magnesium, folate, dietary fiber, riboflavin, and vitamins C, E, and
phytochemical front, avocados contain glutathione, an antioxidant with
anti-carcinogenic potential. They also contain a significant amount
of a cholesterol-lowering phytosterol called beta-sitosterol. So donÕt
be scared of the high fat content of the alligator pear for it lowers
cholesterol and therefore great for the heart.
California avocado is available year-round and has a rich flavor and
creamy texture. This is the best variety for guacamole, but it turns
a bit mushy in salads. The skin turns almost black when the avocado
is ripe Ñ this, unfortunately, can camouflage bad bruises. The Pinkerton
peels easily and has excellent flavor. The Reed is a large, round avocado
that slips easily from the peel, and has good flavor and texture. It
will stay firm even when ripe, so it's great in salads. The Fuerte Florida
avocado is in season from late fall through spring. It's not quite as
buttery as the Hass avocado, but its flavor is excellent. The bacon
avocado is a sweet, smooth-skinned variety that shows up in the middle
of winter, but isnÕt as flavorful as other avocados and is also known
as the green skin avocado.
the most popular. Eighty percent of CaliforniaÕs 6,000 alligator pear
farms grow the Hass variety. The Hass avocado tree began life as a mistake.
It was a lucky-chance seedling planted by A.R. Rideout of Whittier.
Rideout, an innovator and pioneer in avocados, was always searching
for new varieties and tended to plant whatever seeds he could find,
often along streets or in neighbors' yards. In the late 1920s, Mr. Rudolph
Hass, a postman, purchased the seedling tree from Rideout, and planted
it in his yard. Rudolph Hass did buy the avocado seeds from Mr. Rideout,
but he planted them himself. Rudy had used all of the money he had to
buy the land for his grove. He was only earning 25 cents an hour working
as a postman so he couldn't afford trees.
was noted for using any seeds he could get his hands on, including the
garbage from restaurants. His selection process occurred when the seedlings
were ready to graft. Rudolph Hass knew nothing about raising trees,
but Mr. Rideout was very helpful to him and instructed him to plant
three seeds in a cluster wherever he wanted a tree, and then pull up
the two weakest seedlings and graft the strongest. For this reason,
no one knows what kind of seed produced the Hass tree.Ó
avocado tree today is descended from that original tree Rudolph Hass
patented as the Hass avocado in 1935, but since it was the first patent
ever issued on a tree, it got no respect. Growers would buy one tree
from Mr. Brokaw who had the exclusive right to produce the nursery trees.
They would then re-graft their whole grove with the bud wood from that
one tree. For that reason Rudolph Hass made only $5,000 royalties on
his patent. However, he was the first to have a producing grove of Hass
avocados, albeit a very small grove. He found a ready market for the
fruit at the Model Grocery Store in Pasadena where the chefs for wealthy
people shopped. Once they sampled the Hass variety, they insisted on
Hass lived to the ripe old age of 98 after a lifetime of eating a half
piece of wheat toast with avocado slices on it with breakfast just about
are the uses of the alligator pear or avocado? Indians in tropical America
break them in half, add salt and eat with tortillas and a cup of coffee
Ñ as a complete meal. In North America, avocados are primarily served
as salad vegetables, merely halved and garnished with seasonings, limejuice,
lemon juice, vinegar, mayonnaise, or other dressings. Often the halves
are stuffed with shrimp, crab, or other seafood. Avocado flesh may be
sliced or diced and combined with tomatoes, cucumbers, or other vegetables
and served as a salad. The seasoned flesh is sometimes used as a sandwich
filling. Avocado, cream cheese, and pineapple juice may be blended as
a creamy dressing for fruit salads.
guacamole, a blend of the pureed flesh with lemon or limejuice, onion
juice or powder, minced garlic, chili powder or Tabasco sauce, and salt
and pepper has become a widely popular dip for crackers, potato chips,
or other snacks. The ingredients of guacamole may vary and some people
of its tannin content, the flesh becomes bitter if cooked. In Guatemalan
restaurants, a ripe avocado is placed on the table when a hot dish is
served and the diner scoops out the flesh and adds it just before eating.
the avocado is regarded more as a fruit than as a vegetable and is used
mostly mashed in sherbet, ice cream, or milk shakes. Avocado flesh is
added to heated ice cream mixes (such as boiled custard) only after
they have cooled. If mashed by hand, the fork must be a silver one to
avoid discoloring the avocado. A New Zealand recipe for avocado ice
cream is a blend of avocado, lemon juice, orange juice, grated orange
rind, milk, cream, sugar and salt, frozen, beaten until creamy, and
frozen again. Some Hawaiian Asians prefer the avocado sweetened with
sugar and they combine it with fruits such as pineapple, orange, grapefruit,
dates, or banana.
avocado flesh is thoroughly mixed with strong black coffee, sweetened
and eaten as a dessert.
time you pick up an avocado, realize it is a fruit, high in fat but
good for you. It has many names and can be treated as either a fruit
or a vegetable. My favorite way to enjoy this fruit is on wheat toast
with mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, salt, and walnuts.
Uncle Paul, along with his wife Calla, owns Uncle Pauls European
Style Open Air Produce Market, 2310 SE Hawthorne, 503-484-8612.