In my younger days as a student, I got a job picking citrus over the holidays. The citrus orchard was a sideline for the owner, who had a large and successful plumbing firm.
For whatever reason – perhaps she couldn’t manage the stinky smells from his plumbing endeavours – his wife refused to wash either his socks or his underpants. Into the bin they would go each week, and off she would head to town to buy fresh sets of each.
My feelings that these were careless, extravagant people were aggravated by the fact that no one ever bothered to pick any of the luscious fruit that dripped from the enormous avocado tree out in the paddock. I decided that these glorious fruits could not go to waste so, during our lunch breaks, I would get my elderly picking companion Lottie to hold the ladder, while I headed up the tree to gather bags of fat green avocados. Lottie would be grumbling away below: “You won’t get ACC if you fall off the ladder stealing avocados,” but I was not deterred.
The moment of perfect nutty creaminess that makes avocados so appealing is a fleeting thing.
While varieties like Reed and Fuerte stay green when they are ripe, Hass avocados change colour as they ripen. This colour change is by far the best way to determine the ripeness of our most commonly available avocado. Hass avocados will take about 7 days to ripen from bright green at room temperature. As the fruit starts to turn a dark olive green it’s two or three days from being ready to eat. Once it gets to a brown-green colour and the stem at the top has a little give when pressed, the avocado is firmly ripe and good for slicing. Another day and the skin will go a little more purple – the flesh at this stage will be soft enough to easily mash.
Once the skin is really black, the fruit is usually past its best. If there are little patches of brown on the outside, or the skin is dimpled, the flesh will most likely be brown and mushy inside and the fruit will have an off, slightly turpentine taste.
Ripe, uncut avocados can be stored in the fridge for two or three days to slow down further ripening, but don’t leave them too long. Once cut, the flesh browns quickly. Sprinkling it with lemon juice helps prevent this, and you can just scrape off any brown from the top, underneath it will still be nice and green. If you want to freeze avocado you need to puree it with lots of lemon juice first to prevent browning.
This week’s recipes make the most of avocados while they are plentiful.