Avocados. | ULTIMA HORA

There was a time when the only exotic fruits available in Palma were avocados. They were expensive and one bought them only on very special occasions. High-class restaurant sometimes tried to justify their over-the-top prices by garnishing dishes with thin slices of avocado.

Even today, many cafeterias specialising in organic and vegetarian ‘healthy food’ (and usually run by rank amateurs) serve toast or baguette with toppings that include a slice of avocado as a means of warranting their high prices.

But avocados are no longer an expensive item and the better ones are priced at less than €6 a kilo. A medium-sized avocado costs around €1.20 and provides a starter for two people. If each half is sliced up you’ll have enough to adorn the toppings of a dozen pieces of toast.

The price of avocados started to fall when the market was flooded with exotic fruits from all over the world: more competition meant lower prices. Every new fruit that went on display started off with prices that were exorbitant but they soon dropped to more acceptable levels.

Many readers will remember the incredibly high prices of kiwis when they were the hottest new fruit. But when farmers all over Spain (including Mallorca) started to grow them, the price tumbled. The cost per kilo was eventually lower than the previous price of a single kiwi.

The same thing happened with avocados but the price settled down some years ago. Nowadays I buy those larger avocados costing less than €5 a kilo — they are ready for eating and the supermarket wants to shift them before they become overripe.

You will frequently see small black avocados in packs of three with what looks like a good price. Don’t be tempted. They’re mainly overripe and are a waste of money. But larger avocados ready for eating or about to become fully ripe are a good buy. They’re not so exotic these days, but they still seduce many of us.

Avocado properties

All of the avocados I see here are of the Hass variety, with black to deep purple bumpy skins. The ripe flesh is of a pale yellow-green colour, is a soft as butter and has a nutty flavour. It’s best to buy avocados at supermarkets because at the municipal markets you are not allowed to touch fruit or veg.

But at supermarkets you can help yourself although you must always use the plastic gloves that are at hand. Supermarket avocados can be gently pressed at both ends to determine their degree of ripeness. If the ends are slightly soft and the rest of the avocado is firm but just about to become soft, then it is ready for eating. If you can’t make up your mind about two avocados, take the one that feels heavy for its size.

Avocados are usually picked a week before they are ripe and are kept in temperature-controlled fridges to slow down the ripening process to a minimum. When you buy avocados at the supermarket you shouldn’t have to wait more than three days before they are ready for eating.

If you buy unripe avocados and need them quickly, wrap them in paper. This concentrates the natural gases given off by the fruit and the flesh will ripen more quickly. Never put avocados in the fridge unless your recipe calls for them to be served very cold.

Many people avoid foods with which they are unfamiliar simply because they don’t know how to use them — or even how to prepare them for use. With avocados there should be no such problems because even a child can manage the initial preparation and the simplest recipes. You can enjoy an avocado (or half of one because that is enough at any one meal) as a starter after less than half a minute’s work.

schwaiger recipe

Cut around the fruit from top to bottom, going in until you touch the stone. When you have done this all round, grip the fruit between the palms and give a gentle but firm twist. The halves will separate and the stone is easily removed. With a drizzle of lime or lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt (preferably Maldon flakes) the avocados are ready to eat. This is the avocado at its simplest but many other recipes can follow from that basic preparation.

My favourite way of eating avocados these days is to scoop out the ripe flesh, add salt and pepper to taste, spray on lots of Italian balsamic vinegar, mash it smooth and use it as a spread on any kind of crisp support. With a glass of sherry or a good Spanish white wine such as verdejo or albariño, it makes a perfect preprandial nibble.

Having prepared some avocados as described above, you can then have a go at stuffing them. Most cooks do seafood stuffings, usually crab, lobster, gambas or langostinos. But upmarket shellfish increases the cost and you can get most acceptable results with mussels or clams — and even one of the better cans of Spanish tuna.

To make the stuffing, scoop out the avocado flesh with a small silver spoon (although a stainless steel one is perfectly okay) stir in some lime or lemon juice and add the chopped seafood of your choice.

Vinaigrettes can be used instead of the usual citric juices but they must never be aggressive ones. And it makes a nice change to use the juice of a tartish orange, mandarin or grapefruit. Rick Stein, who does marvellous things with fish, serves poached skate with mayonnaise that contains the chopped flesh of an avocado.

In Huelva, which is sherry country, they make a hot avocado soup into which is stirred a glass of fino to give it an extra kick. Put the flesh of three avocados into a blender with 300 mls of cream and blitz until smooth. Add rich chicken stock to get the desired consistency and blitz again.

Avocado salad with Potatoes

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and put on a moderate heat until it is just about to come to the boil. Take off the heat and add lemon juice, fino sherry, salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, drizzle a thread of cream over the surface of each plate or bowl.
Although used mainly as a vegetable, the avocado is the fruit of a tree belonging to the laurel family. It is native to Central and South America and was cultivated by the ancient Aztecs and later by the Incas.

After Columbus’s discovery of the New World, avocados were being grown in Andalusia early in the 16th century. Botanists in Seville were always the first to grow exotic plants that arrived from the Americas and from there they were usually sent to what is now the Costa del Sol and then to the Canary Islands. Most of Spain’s avocado production is now centred in Andalusia and the Canaries. The biggest plantations are in Almeria.

Avocados are rich in vitamins A, B and E as well as potassium and folic acid. They have some vitamin C and less water than any other fruit: only 70 per cent. But you should be careful with them if you are counting the calories: there are 200 in 100 grs. The avocado’s fat is not found in any other fruit and has certain similarities to the fats in milk.