I am guessing that most of us wouldn’t be able to name any plant species that used to thrive on our planet millions of years ago, disappeared for a bit and then returned about twelve thousand years ago. Well avocadoes have done just that and what a fantastic reception on their return!
I don’t know about most readers, but when I hear some food related stories such as this, I can immediately equate that to another great event in history – probably the return in this case to that of Robert of Bruce the Scottish King or King Richard III who had gone to fight the Crusades only to return to fight contenders and usurpers to the throne of England.
I find it terribly exciting that avocadoes (which incidentally are the subject of this essay and the fruit I was referring to earlier), a fruit bearing tree that has difficulty to pollinate itself and hence propagate, has chosen to make itself so invaluable to humankind that people are now forced to ensure its survival.
Who would have thought that the avocado fruit would be such a boon to us? Imagine yourself about two and a half thousand years ago. You would in all probability be in contrast to the genteel society of the modern age and be classified as a barbarian. Imagine you see fruits hanging from the tree in pairs and they turn black and look like testicles; would you be tempted to munch on them? Well, luckily for us, the ancient Peruvians did just that about three thousand seven hundred years ago. They initially tried to keep the plant all to themselves before the Aztecs, who were a much more technologically advanced culture, started cultivating them in large numbers.
When the Spaniards landed in search of gold, they also found avocadoes which they then promoted throughout the European continent and all the territories under their sway. Thus the avocado moved to Mexico and from there to California, to India with the Portuguese, to Indonesia and to Africa.
Initially, avocadoes were touted as aphrodisiacs because of the initial ‘black testicle looking and hanging in pairs bit’ but then they were also a comparatively cheaper food with great nutritional value that helped spread their popularity. An average avocado comes packed with Vitamins B, K, C, E and potassium. In fact they provide the body with at least twenty different nutrients. Clinical research has found that avocado consumers maintain better health overall. Well, I didn’t believe that because we were always brought up with the understanding that as a ‘butter fruit’, it should naturally be bad for you. I was so wrong! Avocadoes are packed with the good kind of fat and are extremely low on carbs. They are known to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and contain a healthy handful of fibre. The fat in avocadoes helps you to absorb nutrients from other plant foods. They are extremely good for the eyes and protect you from contracting cataracts and macular degeneration which basically means your eyes going kaput.
Avocadoes are anti-inflammatory and are added to the diet to reduce the symptoms of arthritis and some studies have found them to be beneficial in combating certain types of cancer.
Avocadoes are rather easy to prepare. Hold the ripe fruit in your palm. You will know when it is ripe when the body feels soft under the crisp skin and the skin has turned black. Press a knife against the skin until it reaches the seed in the centre and then turn the fruit around in your palm till it has been cut all the way around. Put the knife down and twist the fruit in your hand till it splits into two. Hold the side with the seed in your palm and whack the heel of the knife into the centre of the seed and yank it back out and it will come out with the seed. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the fruit and it is ready to eat.
Although guacamole is the most popular way of preparing avocadoes, there are rather interesting other combinations developed around the world. The most common style is to add them to salads and sandwiches. The Japanese style vegetarian California roll which is sold in sushi bars around the world uses avocadoes as one of its prime ingredients and Ethiopia abounds in tiny little stores selling avocado milkshakes and a drink called ‘spris’ which layers avocadoes with different fruit juices. In India where it grows in the southern state of Karnataka, it is sometimes mashed with rice and sugar to form breakfast dumplings while the Moroccans also have it as a milkshake with an addition of chocolate and orange flower water.
As far as I am concerned, I am just glad that I rediscovered this wonderful fruit and that it is actually good for me.