All about avocados

Avocados have an ancient, curious history. Native to the tropics of Central America, legend has it that a Mayan princess ate the first avocado and that it held mystical and magical power.
From easy-to-digest baby food to appetizer, salad, main dish or dessert, avocados can be enjoyed in many different ways. They remain popular in modern-day cuisine due to their versatility and nutritional value.
Avocados are a rich fruit with a smooth, creamy texture and a delicate, nutty flavor.
They are grown year-round and are typically pear-shaped. The skin and large seed must be removed before eating, which leaves a fleshy interior ranging in color from shades of yellow to yellow-green.
Avocados contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin E, folate, potassium, riboflavin, niacin and magnesium. They are a great source of fiber, which aids in healthy digestion, keeps us feeling full and promotes heart health.
They are also high in monounsaturated fats. These healthy fats are known to improve cholesterol levels, decrease risk of heart disease, aid in controlling blood sugar and provide benefits to your skin, brain and digestive system.
Avocados provide a great opportunity to talk to your kids about healthy fats. Explain the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats. Unhealthy fats are those that mostly come from animal products and processed foods. Healthy fats are those that typically come from plant-based foods, oils and fish. Unhealthy fats increase cholesterol levels and lead to a higher risk of heart disease, whereas healthy fats, like those found in avocados, can improve cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Invite your kids to help you prepare an easy snack with avocados. Slice the avocado in half, and have them scoop out the flesh and spread it on toast instead of butter. Alternatively, use mashed avocado on a sandwich instead of mayonnaise. You could also fill the small “bowl” in the middle of the fruit with tuna or chicken salad.
Or, make guacamole, a classic avocado dish that is often associated with Mexican cuisine. Just mash the avocado, mix with a little garlic, onion, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Enjoy as a dip for vegetables, a topping for a main dish or a spread for sandwiches.
Choosing avocados
Ripe avocados are firm but give slightly when pressed with a finger. However, because avocados do not ripen on the tree, it is often necessary to buy them before they are ripe and allow them to ripen at home. If you buy a hard, unripe avocado, leave it on your counter for two to five days to let it ripen. To quicken ripening, place avocados in a brown paper bag with an apple.
Ripe avocados can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Preparing avocados
Follow these tips to make peeling and pitting an avocado easier:
1. Wash the fruit with cool tap water.
2. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise around the pit.
3. Rotate the halves to separate.
4. Use a spoon to gently remove the pit.
5. Peel the fruit, using your fingers or a knife to remove the skin. You can also use a spoon to scoop out the avocado meat.
6. Slice as desired with the flat side down.
Avocados taste best when eaten at room temperature. They can take on a bitter taste when exposed to high heat or prolonged cooking. When using in cooked dishes, add the avocado at the last minute, exposing the fruit to only gentle heat and preserving its delicate, nutty flavor.
Storing avocados
When exposed to air, avocado flesh turns brown. When storing, first sprinkle with lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar, place in an airtight covered container in your refrigerator and eat within two days. Although whole and sliced avocados do not freeze well, you can freeze avocado puree, though it may be slightly watery when thawed. Simply mash the avocado flesh with 2 tablespoons of lime juice and store in an airtight container with 1/2-inch headspace for up to six months in the freezer. Thaw the puree in the refrigerator and use within three days.
Salty chili chocolate
avocado mousse (vegan)
Ingredients:
• 2 medium ripe avocados
• 1/2 cup cocoa powder
• 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 scant teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
• pinch of salt
• flaked sea salt for garnish
Instructions:
1. Puree all of the ingredients except for the flaked salt in a food processor until smooth.
2. Refrigerate to cool.
3. Divide among four to six small serving dishes and top with a sprinkle of sea salt.
4. Keeps for up to two days refrigerated in an airtight container.
Erin Durant is the Gunnison County family and consumer science agent.
Upcoming events
January/February: Support your local 4-H Program by purchasing soup from a 4-H member.
Jan. 18: Cottage Foods Certification, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Extension office. This certification allows certain foods to be produced in home kitchens and be sold directly to the consumer. For more information, please call the office at 264-5931. To register, go to www.eventbrite.com/cottage-foods-pagosa-co-tickets-83416072719 or come into the office to pay. The cost is $40
Feb. 11: The 36th annual Beef Symposium will be held at the Archuleta County Extension office. The cost is $25 per person and includes lunch. Please call the Extension office at 264-5931 for more information and to register.
Feb. 12: The Agricultural Financial Management Strategies workshop hosted by the CSU Agriculture and Business Management Team will cover topics such as risk management, business planning, enterprise budgeting, record keeping and more. Please go to www.2020fms.eventbrite.com to register or come into the office to pay. The cost is $15.
CPR and first aid classes
CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.
We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.

This story was posted on January 6, 2020.