See that big, beautiful tree? That used to be in my backyard. Oh, how I miss those avocados! The tree was almost 30 feet high, had a trunk thick enough to climb, and it gave HUNDREDS of avocados every year! I would harvest 10-20 at a time, keep a few for myself, and give away the rest. It provided a lot of shade, the squirrels and raccoons loved it, and it was the perfect back drop for my southern California home. I learned a few things about this “alligator pear” over the years and thought I would share the essentials with you. Here’s how to pick, ripen, and store avocados:
HOW TO PICK AVOCADOS
There are several varieties of avocados, but the most popular is Hass. These are the ones I had. They are sometimes nicknamed an “alligator pear” because it is shaped like a pear, but green and bumpy like an alligator. Avocados do NOT ripen on a tree. In fact, if they fall off, they are probably too ripe and not pleasant to eat. Avocados should be left on the tree until they reach a substantial size. The seeds inside an avocado do not grow in size, so as the avocado is plumping up, be assured that it is all nutritious fruit being packed inside the skin. Once off the tree, avocados will ripen in about 5 to 7 days.
But let’s say you’re like most people and have to pick your fruit from the grocery store. How do you tell which ones you can eat tonight as opposed to next week?
- Look at the color. Is it green, brown, or black? Green means ripe in 5 days minimum, brownish means 2-3 days, and black means eat it right now this instant or feed it to the dog.
- Check the squishy factor. Is it rock hard? Better put it back. Does it have a little give to it? Put that one in the bag. Are the sides dented or any parts caving in? That one will most likely be rotten inside.
- Check the stem on top. Is it super hard and still attached to the fruit? Put it back. Does it give a little when you push on it? Keep it. Does it fall off right when you touch it? Pass.
(The avocado on the left is hard and green. It will ripen in about 6 days. The one on the right is slightly more brown and will ripen in about 4 or 5 days.)
In conclusion, you want a slightly brown, somewhat squishy avocado whose stem is still in tact but is flexible to the touch.
HOW TO RIPEN AVOCADOS
But let’s say the grocery store only has hard, green avocados. How do you ripen them so you can use them in the next couple of days? There is a way to speed up the ripening process and it comes with help from other fruit. As bananas, apples, and oranges ripen, they give off ethylene gas that triggers the ripening process. Avocados are also treated and fertilized the same way as a citrus tree. The reason my avocado tree flourished was because it had orange trees on either side. I miss those orange trees too!
So if you put the avocados, oranges, and banana in a paper bag and roll down the top, you will trap in the ethylene gases and the avocados will ripen in a couple of days. Be sure to periodically check their progress so you can use them in their prime. If you want to slow down the ripening process, keep avocados in the refrigerator. Pull them out and use the paper bag trick a couple days before you want to use them.
HOW TO STORE AVOCADOS
Storing avocados depends on their degree of ripeness. Most often avocados should be stored at room temperature on a shelf or counter, away from direct sunlight. However, you may have ripe avocados that you are not ready to use. In this case, store them in the refrigerator to retard the ripening process. They should keep another 3 or more days before going bad.
If you use only half an avocado and want to save the other half, sprinkle a little lemon juice on the fruit and put it in a plastic sandwich bag in the fridge. The lemon juice will prevent that unattractive “brown” layer.
Now you’re ready to make some delicious guacamole, salads, and turkey avocado sandwiches! For other questions you may have, visit Avocado Central. They are a great resource of information, nutrition facts, and recipes.