We are in The Good Time for avocados. Alex Casey talked to an expert on how to make the most of it.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time when a new avocado headline is published somewhere in New Zealand every single day. A time when it is legal for civilians to stand solemnly in supermarkets, gently squeezing dark green mounds in silence. A time when the recommended guac intake is a minimum of eight glasses a day.
It’s avocado season, and you need to be prepared.
Like many, I am bad with managing avocados due to having no patience whatsoever. Catch me grinning like The Joker as I scrape concrete-hard avo on my toast, a single tear rolling down my cheek as I later chew on the bitter chunks.
Just this week, I microwaved an avocado to try and ripen it on the advice of an anonymous source, who swore it worked in the 90s. It did not work.
Luckily for me, I have been able to draw on the expertise of a real-life avocado expert. Tom Clarke runs Far North Packers, spending all of his days around the fruit they call the alligator pear, and describes himself as a “fountain of useless avocado trivia”. Before you hit the supermarket for your next big squeeze, please heed his wise advice.
Do NOT squeeze them you BUFFOON
If you think that your idle supermarket mooshing is helping the cause, you’re going to find yourself up shit creek with a munted avo, says Tom. “Have you ever bought an avocado and opened it and it’s just rotten? You cut in expecting a beautiful creamy fruit, but you get something sad and grey and not edible? That’s because of internal damage and bruising from the five people before you who picked it up and squeezed it.”
Push the button
In the words of the Sugababes: if you’re ready for avo / you’ve got to push the button and you will know / before you get the wrong idea and go / to cut it no no no no no nooo nooo. One of the best ways to test an avocado’s ripeness, says Tom, is to give the little stalk nub thing a jiggle. “If I’m ripening fruit, I check by gently wiggling the button. You can do that at the supermarket.” Just don’t make direct eye contact with anyone or it might get weird.
50 Shades of Avo
If you aren’t in the mood for a button wiggle, you can always just try the visual test. “Basically, it’s all about the colour,” says Tom. “Avocados intensify in shade the riper they get. If it is still green looking it will be quite hard, as it darkens you can get to slicing, which is good for salad, and then darker and you’re dealing with guacamole.”
The fruit bowl is your friend
According to Tom, most of the avocados in our supermarkets are ripened prior to appearing on the shelf. This happens in a room where they’re treated with ethylene, an enzyme which is huge in fruit. “As far as hacks are concerned, the best way to get an avocado to ripen is to put it in a fruit bowl with other fruit,” says Tom, “especially bananas.”
Do NOT put them in the sun you BUFFOON
“People tell me they do this all the time,” says Tom, “but you should never leave avocados on the windowsill because they get sunburnt. It makes for a terrible avocado. Keep them out of the sun.” If you see a reddish tinge on your avocado, it means that someone has forgotten to slip, slop, slap. I asked Tom if you can sunblock your avocados. “I guess you can, but the best thing to do is just keep them in the shade.”
I asked if you can dress your avocados in sun hats and shades. He said nothing.
Do NOT microwave them to ripen them quicker
“I would not advise to do that. I can’t see how that would work.”
Avoid the dreaded ‘avocado hands’
Once you’ve got your ripe avocado, it is important that you don’t chop your hand in half. “Google ‘avocado hands NZ‘ and see what comes up. The injuries are shocking.” The best way to cut an avocado, Tom says, is on a board and NOT into your own hand. “It seems like very common sense, but ACC says otherwise.” In the past three years, avocado-related injuries have cost ACC over $800,000.
Enjoy a lemon party
If you need to keep some avocado for later, pop some lemon over it and keep it an airtight container in the fridge. “It’s worth a try, but timing is everything.” says Tom. “I mostly just put one half over the other half, put it in the fridge, and hope for the best.”
Use the stone for science
They aren’t compost friendly, but avocado stones can be useful when you want to enjoy the wonders of science. “If you’ve got kids, you can do this science experiment with them – put a toothpick through a stone, hang it over a glass of water and, hey presto, it turns into a plant.” Also works if you don’t have kids. I’ve heard.
Serve it simple
Pop some Marmite or Vegemite under avocado on your toast to make it sing. Lemon. Salt and pepper of course. Make this weird man guacamole. Or, keep it simple. “My favourite way to eat avocado is what my mum used to do when I was a kid,” says Tom. “Half an avocado sliced up with some Lea & Perrins. Simple and delicious.”
Enjoy it before avo-geddon
We’re in the sweet spot at the moment, but it is always important to remember that the good times don’t last forever. “Avo-geddon happens when most of the picking is done and there are only a few suppliers who have hung fruit,” says Tom. “But it’s risky – all you need is a storm to come through and the fruit will all just drop.” You can expect to hit troubled water for avocado prices around May. “That’s when the media picks up on it, everyone goes crazy, and you get a few happy, happy growers. Then the season starts proper again and everyone forgets it was ever a problem.”