In 1961 my family celebrated our 10th anniversary of being Naturalized Citizens of the United States. At this time my father sold our first small home and bought a bigger one in a very nice neighborhood in Glendale, California. I was still in college and lived at home. My little bedroom was decorated with pink and white bedspreads and white curtains that covered the two windows looking out onto a small back yard. My desk was in front of one of those windows and when I sat there studying my eyes always wandered out to the big tree that shaded the house.
Through the seasons I never saw it bloom, but during the summer it bore some strange fruit that we did not recognize.
We had no idea what to do with this fruit. We let it fall to the ground, collected it, and put it into the trash.
Some evenings at dusk I would see raccoons tip-toe around the garden picking up and eating this strange fruit that fell off the tree.
It was many years later in a restaurant that I was urged to choose a salad, “Hearts of Lettuce with Guacamole” and it was delicious. When I asked what that green “vegetable” was I was told that it was an Avocado. As it was being described to me, I realized that it was the fruit of our backyard tree, while all these years we had thrown away this delectable fruit and had no idea that it was edible.
Since then, and for many years now the Avocado is one of my favorite fruit.
It grows on a tree of the laurel family!
In all my reading about the history of the Avocado, the researchers differ in some respects of its origin, however, most of them seem do agree that it originated in the South Americas.
It was Hernandez de Oviredo who discovered the Avocado in 1526, and research shows that it was highly regarded by the Mayas and Aztecs. The original name was awa gualt which then in common usage, in the Spanish language, became Avocado.
In 1653 horticulturists described that the many types of Avocados came from three races, all indigenous to Mexico. They were recognized as West Indian, Guatemalan and Mexican Avocados.
Today most of the cultivated Avocados are grown in Florida and California. In Florida we find the West Indian-Guatemalan, the Fuerte, and in California the Guatemalan-Mexican, the Hass. The Hass Avocado is named after Rudolph Hass, a mailman from Wisconsin who retired in California and patented the tree in 1935.
In Florida there are about 60 different Avocado varieties.
Generally the Florida Avocado is juicy, not buttery and has about 3 to 5 % oil and their flavor is mild and fruity. The Florida Avocado can weigh from one half pound and up to 5 pounds and can be as large as a football and has a skin that stays a smooth and leafy green.
Most of the Avocados are best when ripened off the tree. To buy them in the grocery store chose one that is heavy for its size, and yields to gentle pressure. To speed ripen them, place several Avocados into a paper bag and let them sit at room temperature for a couple of days.
When the Avocado is cut the flesh will darken once it is exposed to air. Pouring or rubbing little lemon or lime juice over the fruit will eliminate the discoloration – somewhat.
Once mashed to a puree in preparation for a dip it is NOT TRUE that burying the avocado stone in the puree will help maintain the fresh green color.
Recently recipe preparations using avocados have become a little more imaginative. Due to the awareness for healthy eating, the Avocado has become quite popular.
However the guacamole is probably still the most loved!
The Avocado contains important nutrients, such as lutein, which promotes eye health; vitamin E an antioxidant; and potassium a component without which the body’s electrolytes would not be balanced. The little fat it contains is mono-unsaturated, which some studies say helps lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.
Here are some old recipes
that will get you in the mood for spring!
Hearts of Lettuce with Guacamole
From one of my favorite books:
“Come Into The Kitchen Cook Book” 1967
By Mary and Vincent Price – Vincent Price, the famous move star, was a frequent visitor at Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood, California where I spent four years studying Biology. I, and my friends on campus were so in “ah” of him!
1 large ripe Avocado
½ peeled and finely chopped ripe tomato
½ seeded and finely chopped green pepper
2 tsp grated onion
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lime juice
½ cup mayonnaise
Hearts of lettuce
Mash the Avocado with a fork. Blend in the remaining ingredients except the mayonnaise. Spread the mayonnaise over the top of the mixture to keep it from darkening. Refrigerate and when ready to serve, blend in the mayonnaise.
Serve as a dressing on Hearts of Lettuce or use it as a dip.
Avocado Spring Salad
“Complete Cookbook” 1961
From Amy Vanderbilt
6 scallions (young green onions)
6 small radishes
Peel the Avocado. Dice and sprinkle it with lemon juice. Slice washed scallions very thin. Wash radishes and grate them coarsely. Combine Avocado, scallions and radishes lightly using two forks. Serve on a bed of lettuce with the French Dressing.
Lemon French Dressing
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp prepared mustard
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp paprika
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Makes about 1 ¼ cups dressing.
Avocado Luncheon Salad
“Complete Cookbook” 1961
from Amy Vanderbilt
1 cup diced cooked chicken or crab meat
¾ cup diced celery
½ cup diced cucumber
2 or 3 black olives chopped coarsely
½ cup mayonnaise
Lettuce or watercress
Cut avocados in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Combine chicken or crab meat, celery, cucumber, olives and mayonnaise. Mix lightly.
Place Avocado halves on a bed of lettuce and fill the avocados with the salad mixture.
One can substitute the chicken with crab, lobster, or tuna.
From “Cooking with Love and Paprika” 1966
By Joseph Pasternak a famous Hollywood producer.
1 cup creamed cottage cheese.
1 Avocado, peeled and mashed
1 tsp minced onion
1 tsp lemon juice
dash of Worcestershire sauce
salt to taste
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve as a dip/spread with Melba toast or crackers.
Rich Avocado Dip
“Dear Kitchen Bazaar” 1977
by Rona Cohen
This was my favorite Kitchen Store in Baltimore when we moved here in 1981.
1 large, fresh tomato – peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and grated
4 Avocados, very ripe, peeled and mashed
2 cups sour cream
Juice of 1 lemon
A few dashes of Tobasco
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ tsp garlic powder or 1 to 2 fresh garlic cloves – finely chopped..
Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix gently.
Serve with taco chips.
Butter Lettuce with Ruby Grapefruit, Avocado, and Glazed Walnuts
From my special friend……and her book:
“Cooking School Secrets” 2005
from Linda Carucci…..who lives in Oakland, California. You can find her as the Director at the San Francisco Culinary School…
2 large, firm heads butter (Boston) lettuce
½ small red onion, ends cut off and cut lengthwise into thin crescents
2 large, ripe Hass Avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes
4 large, sweet Ruby grapefruits, cut into segments
Finely chopped zest of 1 orange
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 ½ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp granulated garlic powder
1/8 tsp fine, granulated ground black pepper
¼ cup mild-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup superfine sugar
2 quarts water
2 cups (6 ounces) walnut halves
About 2 cups light tasting vegetable oil, for frying
Place the sugar in a bowl, large enough to hold the walnuts and have a heatproof rubber spatula ready. Place a strainer in the sink for the walnuts.
Nest a clean, dry wire-mesh strainer inside a bowl and place near the stove.
Coat the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet lightly with vegetable oil spray.
In a 4 quart pan bring the water to a rolling boil add the walnuts and boil for just 1 minute. Remove walnuts and shake them dry in a towel. Transfer them to the prepared sugar to coat them.
Now transfer them to the hot oil and fry them to a golden brown. This goes very quickly so be very attentive.
Carefully transfer the fried walnuts to the prepared baking sheet, making sure that they do not touch and are in a single layer. Cool them and dry them before serving.
Assembling the Salad
Cut the lettuce in sections length-wise. Wash the sections in cold water and spin them dry.
Just before serving toss the lettuce and the red onion slices with the dressing and tasting it for enough salt. If it needs more salt add a sprinkle over the lettuce.
Add the grapefruit sections and tuck them into the fold of the lettuce. Break up the walnut halves and sprinkle them over the salad.
Do you have a favorite Guacamole recipe?
Send me your comments……I would love to hear from you!!!