Featured Fruit — Avocado


Persea Americana

Avocados grow in subtropical climes where there is no frost and little wind, though the Haas cultivar has been known to tolerate temperatures down to −1°C.  The trees are partially self-fertile, and like apples are propagated by grafting to maintain predictability in the fruit.  The rough, green-skinned, pear shaped fruit is botanically classified as a berry, and matures on the tree, but ripens after harvesting.  Avocado flowers are unlike the flowers of any other plant.  They undergo two phases during bloom.  They first open as female for a few hours, close overnight, and then open as male the next day.

Avocado pits can be germinated and grown as a houseplant by suspending a washed pit in a glass (generally using toothpicks embedded in the sides) pointed-side up and filling the glass with water until the bottom quarter of the pit is covered. As the pit absorbs water it will crack open, and should sprout in 4–6 weeks. When the roots and stem emerge from the seed, it can be planted in soil. Indoor grown avocado trees will not normally bear fruit without sufficient sunlight, and would also need a second tree for pollination.  Trees from seed mature in 4 to 6 years, and fruit from seedlings are unlikely to resemble the fruit of the parent tree. A ripe avocado will yield to a gentle pressure when held in the palm of the hand and squeezed. The flesh is typically greenish yellow to golden yellow when ripe. The flesh oxidizes and turns brown quickly after exposure to air. To prevent this, lime or lemon juice can be added to avocados after they are peeled.

Fast Shrimp Ceviche

Traditional ceviche uses the citric acid in the lime and lemon juice to chemically cook the seafood, but due to the possibility of bacterial contamination, and because it’s faster, I prefer to use pre-cooked shrimp.

1 pound medium-small shrimp (frozen, pre-cooked)

3/4 cup lime juice (4-6 limes)

3/4 cup lemon juice (2-3 lemons)

1 cup finely chopped red or sweet onion

1 serrano or jalpeno chile, ribs and seeds removed, minced

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 cucumber, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces

1 avocado, peeled, seed removed, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Olive oil and salt to taste

Cut each piece of shrimp into inch-long pieces and place in a glass or ceramic bowl (not metal).  Add the lime and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for at least a half hour.  Add the chopped red onion and serrano chile.  Refrigerate an additional half hour.  Right before serving, add the cilantro, cucumber, and avocado.  Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.  (And a margarita, if you like!)