The avocado has been part of the diet in Mexico for a long time. Archaeological evidence traces the consumption of the avocado in central Mexico almost 10,000 years. In this period people were simply gathering wild avocados. Research suggests that the cultivation of avocados began around 5,000 years ago. Domesticated avocado trees were grown by Mesoamerican tribes such as the Incas, the Olmecs and the Mayans.
It was 16th century Spanish explorers who were the first Europeans to eat avocados. Avocados had spread from Mexico through Central America by the time of the Spanish conquests. Avocados were brought to Europe by the Spanish, from there they were sold to other European countries including the U.K.
Avocados were first grown in Florida by Henry Perrine in 1833. It was not until the early 20th century that they became a commercial crop, as they gained popularity in California, Florida and Hawaii. They gained more widespread popularity in the U.S during the 1950’s when people started putting them in salads.
Avocado (b)all(s) in the name.
The name avocado comes from the Aztec word “ahuácatl” which means testicle. This could be due to the shape or that the Aztecs believed it to have aphrodisiac properties. The Spanish then evolved “ahuácatl” to “aguacate” and eventually “avogato” before becoming avocado. The fruit was first known as an “Avagato pear” in English, due to the shape resembling that of a pear. It would later be known as an “alligator pear” because of the alligator like skin. The term avocado would later become the common term.
The origins of the word guacamole translates to testicle sauce or soup. Guacamole derives from the Nahautl Indian word, “ahuacamolli” this is comes from “ahuácatl” and “molli”.
Health Benefits of Eating Avocados.
The avocado is packed full of nutrients and for this reason it is considered a “super food”. A 100 gram serving of avocado contains the following:
- Vitamin K: 26% of the RDA.
- Folate: 20% of the RDA.
- Vitamin C: 17% of the RDA.
- Potassium: 14% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B5: 14% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B6: 13% of the RDA.
- Vitamin E: 10% of the RDA.
- 100 grams of avocado also contains small amounts of Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin).
Avocados are low in saturated fat and contain no sodium or cholesterol. Avocados contain more potassium than bananas. They are high in monounsaturated oleic acid, which is considered a heart healthy fatty acid. Avocados are high in fibre, which can benefit weight loss and constipation.
Guacamole & Other Avocado Based Sauces.
One of the most well known uses for avocados is guacamole. This delicious dip was first created by the Aztecs in the 15th century, it’s popularity as an accompaniment has spread through out the world. Traditionally guacamole is made by mashing avocados and sea salt. The dip is then adjusted as taste dictates with the addition of tomatoes, onions, garlic, lemon juice, lime, chili or cayenne pepper, coriander, basil or jalapenos. With the main ingredient of guacamole being raw avocado, the dish is packed full of the healthy vitamins and minerals contained in avocados. One of the downsides to guacamole is that exposure to oxygen can quickly turn the dip brown. This is due to the presence of polyphenol oxidase in the avocados cells, the oxygen causes an enzymatic reaction which develops melanoidin pigment. It is therefore recommended that fresh guacamole is stored in an air-tight container.
While most people are familiar with guacamole there are several other avocado based dips and sauces including:
- Mantequilla de pobre – This is Spanish for poor-man’s butter, it is a mixture of avocado, tomato, oil and citrus juice.
- Guasacaca – Pronounced “wasakaka” in Latin America, is a Venezuelan sauce made with vinegar and a little hot sauce.
- Salat avocado – Originating in Israeli, this is an avocado based salad made with lemon juice, chopped spring onions and salt and pepper. Usually served with pita or flat breads it is eaten in villages along the coastal plain, where avocados are considered a winter delicacy.
2017 has been a great year for avocados so far with two new eateries opening that sell nothing but avocados on their menus. In Amsterdam The Avocado Show serve a variety of dishes where avocados are the star of the show. These dishes include a selection of salad bowls, an avocado burger and even a complete dessert menu. Opening slightly after the Avocado Show (April 10th 2017) and calling it’s self the world’s first avocado bar, Brooklyn, New York’s Avocaderia have a menu that includes smoothies, fresh salads, and savory toasts. Both restaurants use ethically sourced avocados and as you can see from both The Avocado Show and Avocaderia’s instagram accounts the chefs behind these establishments are doing some extremely creative and visually exciting things with avocados.
Avocado Prices at Record High!
The popularity of avocados has risen this year nearly as quickly as the price. The price of avocados is now the highest it has been for 19 years, research, cited by Bloomberg, states a 10kg box of avocados from Mexico’s biggest producer now sells for about £21.80 – more than double the price of one year ago. There are several reasons for this price spike.
- Consumption of avocados in China and throughout the world has increased demand on the suppliers. Last year, the Grocer reported that an extra £49m was spent on avocados than the previous year, a 30 percent increase.
- The Mexican government cite a shortage in production and reduction in harvests.
- Producers in the Mediterranean have been affected by the El Nino weather pattern, and adverse conditions making production more difficult.
- Strikes by Mexican growers during 2016, stopped the fruit leaving the growers.
- Growers in California are battling the invasive polyphagous shot hole borer beetle, that leaves a deadly fungus inside the trees that it has drilled holes in.