Avocados, avocados everywhere avocados!
How did avocados become so popular in the UK?
Our family grew up with avocados in Southern California; literally, there were small avocado groves scattered all around our neighbourhood. Because of the abundance of avocados grown in California – and our neighbourhood – they featured regularly in our diet. We ate a lot of avocado: in hamburgers, on toast, alongside steak, chicken or fish, with enchiladas, in tacos and every kind of sandwich, but mainly in salads – big bowls of icy, crisp lettuces, salad vegetables, croutons and loads of avocado, finished with a creamy dressing. We missed our avocados when we arrived on these shores in the late 1960’s; there were none to be found. If we did find one, it was a precious rarity – made even more strange and uncommon by virtue of not being grown in California but a kibbutz in Israel.
Clearly the supply chains for avocados have matured and developed to keep pace with the burgeoning demand for the fruit. Not only is the quantity increasing, but also the quality. These days, we can buy ripe, ‘ready to eat’ eat avocados from our local grocery store. Perhaps it is this single factor that has caused the avocado to flourish as our latest food trend. Avocados may be wonderful things; but only during the very short period they are fully ripe. And achieving a ripe avocado can be a bit of a palava. In the early days avocados were bought rock hard, taken home and patiently ripened over a couple of weeks. This ritual was very frustrating and made the advance timing of a dinner-party guacamole almost impossible; even placing a stubbornly unsoftened fruit in a bag full of bananas with their fruit-ripening gases could not be relied upon. But now with a continuous glut of ripened fruit in-store, we can knock-up a ‘guac’ whenever we fancy.
If the supply has been sorted, where did the demand come from? Well, from what we read in the media, avocados are a nutrient-rich superfood. Full of antioxidants, vitamin E and B, soluble fibres, carotenes, minerals and essential acids, they can help regulate appetite, lower blood pressure, balance cholesterol and protect against heart disease. Their one down side is that they are high in fat – but even this is monounsaturated, better than saturated and generally considered a neutral or even beneficial fat… So what’s not to like? Avocados not only score high as a nutritious food they are very pleasant to eat. Mild in flavour with a rich textural taste that is both firm, smooth, velvety and very delicious.
Another benefit of the avocado is its versatility. Although I consider myself an aficionado and unflinching fan of the avocado, I worry that its versatility is forcing the avocado to become an unnaturally ubiquitous ingredient. It seems you can do anything with an avocado. Perhaps so, but I would draw a line at avocado purees, avocado whizzed up with creams and soft cheese or anything else, mousses, soups or any dish that includes hot, grilled or baked avocado (avocados should be eaten at room temperature – possibly a little colder, but never hotter). I’m also perplexed by the current rage of combining soft-boiled eggs and avocado – this feels like one gloopy texture too much to me. So don’t mess about with an avocado more than necessary; with the exception of guacamole, an avocado should be served simply accompanying other delicious food.