Among the colorful treasures in your TakeHome box this week are a couple of emerald Hass avocados. The avocado (Persea americana) originated in south-central Mexico about 10,000 years ago. It was several millennia before wild avocados were cultivated, and many more before “the mother tree” of all Hass avocados was born in a backyard in California, in the early 1930s. Avocados are classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel.
The avocado season is just beginning in Southern California, and lasts until early fall. The fresh avocados in your TakeHome box were grown organically by Las Palmalitas Ranch in Carpentaria (Santa Barbara County). The family ranch was started before the California Gold Rush in the early 1840’s, and has been in production ever since. Grower Will Carlton says, “Avocados survived a long time before pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and they will continue to do very well without them.”
You might think that something as rich and creamy as an avocado would be bad for you, but there is no need to worry. This highly prized fruit -- technically a berry -- is rich in vitamins K, B6, and C, as well as folate, and fiber. (Pssst, we don’t wanna hurt the banana’s feelings, but an avocado has twice the potassium.) Avocados are an important source of monounsaturated fatty acids, including oleic acid, the primary component of olive oil. They also contain high levels of antioxidants, such as carotenoids, as well as significant quantities of vitamin E. The wise folks at The Berkeley Wellness Letter assure us that "[An avocado’s] oils are mostly monounsaturated—the kind that lowers LDL ("bad") cholesterol but maintains HDL ("good") cholesterol.”
Avocados are a healthy substitute for foods rich in saturated fats, like butter and fatty meats. Smear mashed avocado on bagels, toast or rice cakes – scrumptious! And don’t forget the avocado’s sweet side. In Brazil avocados are eaten with ice cream, or in breakfast smoothies called “vitaminas” – blends of milk or yogurt, avocado, honey and sometimes oats. Singer/songwriter Jason Mraz, a celebrity avocado farmer in San Diego county, uses avocados in a surprisingly delicious chocolate pudding recipe he calls “Chocomole”.