The avocado

- Marketman () - June 17, 2011 - 12:00am

Testicle. A large testicle, if you ask me. Avocado is derived from the Aztec term ahuacatl, meaning testicle, according to the Oxford Companion to Food. I’m thinking the cultivated versions that the Aztecs enjoyed some 7,000-plus years ago were more diminutive in size than the one photographed here. There are three main types of avocados and they have evolved into some 500-plus varieties today. A fabulous, unctuous and creamy fruit, they are fantastic in salads or as is most often the case in the Philippines, in sweet desserts.

As a child, I wondered why my mother appeared to be fascinated by the fruit, serving it often when it was in season. It turns out that avocadoes thrived in the province of Bohol, where she spent her formative years, and the province produces an impressive crop each year. It might surprise a few of you that avocados were only introduced to the country around 1900, and despite just a hundred years of cultivation, it is now one of the top 10 fruits crops in the Philippines. The fruit, a native to Mexico or thereabouts, only really thrives in a dozen or so countries around the world, the Philippines being one of the lucky few.

When you spy fruit hanging on the tree, you will understand why it was named after a testicle. It hangs with the weightier part of the fruit at the bottom. Avocados in the Philippines are of two main varieties, both relatively large, one of which remains green when ripe; the other turns to dark burgundy. To tell if they are nearly ripe, shake them and listen for the loose seed within. In California, were Haas avocadoes reign supreme, the fruit are actually rather small and have a bumpy dark skin, and are also known as an alligator pear. For me, the ultimate test of avocado quality lies in the flesh, that I prefer creamy and without many veins of fiber that can mar the texture of the fruit.

Well-made avocado ice cream with lots of rich cream in addition to the fruit and sugar is one of summer’s finest fruit pleasures. You can use an ice cream maker, or if you can’t be bothered, simply mash the fruit with cream and sugar and place in the freezer to chill well. We used to have homemade avocado popsicles as kids that I still love to this day. But as I get older, I have taken to enjoying avocados in salads and other more savory uses. An avocado and prawn pairing is excellent. An avocado and tomato salad is sublime (and they are both in season at the same time in the Philippines). Finally, I can eat a huge serving of that classic Mexican dish of guacamole (tomatoes, avocados, onions, cilantro and lime juice) with corn chips on a hot summer’s day… 

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