It’s hard to describe the flavor of an avocado: creamy, fresh and ever so slightly nutty. One thing is for sure though, the cool, firm texture adds a certain summery touch to any meal. Originating in Central America, the fruit’s name comes from the Spanish aguacate, a derivation of the Nahuatl word ahuácatl, which, surprisingly enough, means testicle (a name which presumably came about because of their shape.) The Aztecs also believed they aided fertility, and chaste members of society avoided eating them.
While their effect on fertility is not documented, the pear shaped fruit do contain folate – which is crucial during periods of rapid cell division like pregnancy and early growth in infants.
Avos have also got more potassium than bananas, contain vitamin B6 (which helps the immune system produce antibodies) and vitamin E (which your red blood cells, skin and hair will all appreciate). They’re especially useful to those trying to cut down their cholesterol. The creamy, buttery texture is the result of a high concentration of monounsaturated fats, which several studies suggest help to reduce blood cholesterol levels and decrease risk of heart disease.
Whether you’re eating them for the health benefits, or because they’re just plain delicious, here are our top tips with avocados:
• Avocados, especially the more ripe ones, make wonderful dip. Using a fork, mix the flesh of 2 avocados with the juice of 1/4 lemon and 1 crushed garlic clove. Add chopped rosa tomatoes, cucumber and coriander leaves. Season to taste.
• For chilled avocado soup, blend one pitted and peeled avocado, a seeded cucumber, a garlic clove, half a cup of buttermilk, a splash of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
• Make a real green salad by combining rocket and watercress leaves with sliced avo, mange tout and chopped green onion. Drizzle with olive or avocado oil and an white wine vinegar. To turn it into a more substantial meal, leave the watercress and replace with spiral pasta or fried haloumi.
• For a lovely summer salad, combine cubes of mango and avo with rocket. dress it with a mixture of lime juice, olive oil, garli, wholegrain mustard and deseeded and sliced chilli. Sprinkle with macadamia nuts.
• Avo goes well with artichoke: halve artichoke hearts and toss with watercress. Spoon the avo straight from the skins and add to the salad. Scatter with salad onions and capers and drizzle with a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil.
• For a beautiful, easy lunch, arrange rocket, strips of smoked trout or seared tuna and wedges of avo on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and top with soft-boiled eggs.
• Add thinly sliced avocado, finely chopped cucumber and red pepper, chopped carrot and cooked prawns to cooked couscous. Toss with a dressing of finely grated lemon rind, shredded mint, lemon juice and olive oil.
• Make a simple Asian-inspired dinner by combining soba noodles, seared salmon, thinly sliced pepper and cucumber, green onion and finely diced avo. Drizzle with a mixture of mirin, rice wine vinegar, soy sayce, brown sugar, sesame oil and ginger, and toss gently.
• Use it as a topping for bruschetta, with prosciutto and rocket-walnut pesto.
• A great accompaniment to spicy food, serve up Mexican meals like this red bean birria with plenty of fresh avocado.