How does avocado taste?

Avocado is a really unusual plant. Which group does it belong to – the vegetables or the fruit? It's not even clear how to use it. You can eat it spiced or sweetened. So maybe we can trust our taste buds to haul us out of this labyrinth of confusion? But this is not exactly a simple assignment either. For how does an avocado actually taste?

Before we arrive at an answer, let’s start with a little basic information for those who don’t even know what an earth this plant even is. The birthplace of the avocado is South America, where it was cultivated as long ago as 8000 B.C. The most conducive climates for avocado cultivation are in tropical and subtropical regions, which is why it has also been warmly welcomed in Israel, Spain and South Africa.

Green pears ?!

The avocado is an evergreen tree that can reach a height of 20 metres. Its leaves are quite long and leathery to the touch.  What concerns us here is the fruit, which resembles a pear in shape, but has a rough green skin. It is this fruit’s appearance that has led to it sometimes being called the “alligator pear”.

Avocado

The term “pear” is also bound up with an interesting story. When the Marks & Spencer chain introduced the avocado to the UK, they used the compound noun “avocado pear”, which confused customers who tried to use this fruit in desserts, as they were used to doing with sweet pears. Under pressure from a number of complaints and cutting comments, Marks & Spencer withdrew the word “pear” from the name, leaving just “avocado”. And it was probably in this form that it reached Poland (although here you may also come across the name: smaczliwka wdzięczna: graceful persea!)

The word “avocado” comes from the Spanish “aguacate”, which itself comes from the Amerindian language spoken by the Nahuas – “ahuácatl”, meaning “testicles” (in reference to the shape of the fruit). Aztecs regarded the avocado as a fertility fruit. In some South American countries, for example Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay, the avocado is called the “palta”. The word “ahuacatl” is used interchangeably with another word – “ahuacamolli” – which means a soup or sauce made from avocado and is the origin of the Spanish word “guacamole”.

Hundreds of strains of this fruit exist. The most popular strain in the United States and Europe is the creamy strain called Haas, which is produced in California. It was patented in 1935 by Rudolph Haas – a postman, who decided to make his fortune by cultivating this tree. He must have made a tidy profit, because one field of avocado trees produces more food than fields cultivated with any other tree. One tree can bear up to 500 fruit per year.

Avocado Trees/ Wikimedia Commons

Avocado Trees/ Wikimedia Commons

Avocado is high in fat but not necessarily unhealthy

Unfortunately, a rumour is circulating that claims that avocado contains too high a fat content. Although this is true, since 75% of its calories come from fat, the kind of fat contained in our ‘alligator pears’ is not so bad. A significant proportion of this fat is comprised of phytosterols, which can exert a positive influence, for example, on the reduction of cholesterol levels.

AvocadoThe avocado fruit also contains an unusually high amount of monounsaturated fats, i.e. oleic acid (with a composition very similar to that in olives). These fats help to increase our absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, such as carotenoids, during the digestive process.

Don’t let this wicked legend about avocado being a high in fat food mislead you. Like other high-fat plant foods such as walnuts and linseed, avocado provides us with unique benefits for our health. And its pulp can be easily spread on bread as a substitute for butter (this is what sailors did on long voyages!).

Avocado leaves, bark and seeds are toxic to many animals – including dogs, cats, geese, rabbits and many birds. Consumption of avocado leaves can cause severe or even fatal colic in horses.

Co-evolving with the megabottom…

The avocado’s nutritional properties, the structure of its fruit and mild toxicity of its seeds suggest that it evolved as a fruit to be dispersed by animals. The fruit is eaten and digested by the animal, providing it with nutrients. In exchange, as it were, for this service, the animal carries the stone inside its stomach for a considerable distance, aiding the propagation of trees of a particular species. This is a common mechanism and explains why many trees produce heavy, high-calorie fruits. A slightly toxic stone or seed irritates the digestive tract, thus aiding its … propagation.

The problem in this case is that the fruit of the avocado are big and their stones are huge. It is highly probable that they co-evolved with large land mammals such as the giant ground sloths and early proboscideans that ruled the Earth in the Pleistocene. When these animals became extinct (due to climate changes, human migration and the emergence of smaller competitors) the avocado was left to its own devices, because only a representative of the Pleistocene megafauna was large enough to be able to swallow the avocado megastone and then painlessly expel it.

Who knows? Maybe if it weren’t for the human beings who now cultivate the avocados and tend to their propagation, the tree would have gradually died off, stripped of its evolutionary “partners”?

So do you know now why a watermelon doesn’t simply have one large pit?:-)

Green cosmetics for everyone

Since they began to be cultivated, avocado trees, their leaves, bark and, in particular, their fruit were used for therapeutic purposes, in particular for skin problems. Today we know that the fruit contains chemical components which stimulate the production of collagen in our body – this can be of huge assistance in the healing of injuries as well as reducing age spots and smoothing out wrinkles.

AvocadoAvocado oil, which is a perfect moisturiser and rejuvenator, is particularly good for our skin. Often it is used by people with inflammatory skin problems – thanks to its anti-microbial and soothing properties, it is ideally suited to such ailments.

Going back to the question in the title. Well, exactly. Describing the flavour of the avocado continues to present an enigma. Hard to describe, hard to classify. Hence the use of the fruit in salads or spicy sauces on the one hand, and desserts and ice cream or sweet drinks on the other. It might be argued that it’s buttery, creamy, smooth, delicate or neither sweet nor bitter, but, when it comes down to it, does it in fact have any taste at all?

Mask for dry skin type

  • 2 tablespoons of avocado flesh
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 egg yolk

Mix the ingredients in a blender, apply to the face and leave for 10 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

Mask for oily skin type

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Mix the ingredients in a blender, apply to the face and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

And how would you describe the taste of avocado?