Last week, I received a beautifully packaged box of Haas Avocados from California Avocados Direct, a fourth generation avocado family farm located near Valley Center, California.
When I took a peek inside the box to see these little treasures, I was surprised to find eight gorgeous super large avocados. The avocados that I buy on the East Coast are imported from Mexico, and pale in comparison in size, texture and flavor. Let’s just say, the avocados Ben Holtz sent me were extra extra large, and extra special!
Top: Avocados from Mexico 7-8 ounces. Bottom: Ben Holtz’s California Avocado 10 ounces
Over the years, I’ve found buying avocados to be a bit of a mystery. I never know exactly when my avocados will be ripe, and there have been many times when I have been sorely disappointed after waiting several days for avocados to ripen, only to find they were rotten inside. This can be especially stressful when I’m trying to make a dish using avocado for guests without knowing whether or not my avocados will be any good. In fact, often I buy extra avocados in case some of them are bad (e.g., mushy, rotten, bruised).
Enter, California Avocados Direct! California Avocados Direct picks and ships their avocados the same day, so there is minimal handling before it arrives at your door. Ben Holtz, fourth generation avocado farmer, and President of California Avocados Direct, started shipping his avocados across North America just this past year due to significant challenges the California avocado market has been facing (increased water rates, increased cheaper imports which are driving domestic prices down, water rationing in California, and water salinity which has reduced fruit size and crop yield).
Ed and Ben Holtz
In the box of carefully wrapped avocados, a pamphlet is included that explains the ripening process for avocados. I learned a few things. Fresh avocados are picked green and rock-hard, and it takes 5 to 9 days for them to ripen at room temperature (63-75 degrees), depending on the time of year they are picked. Also, there is a 24-48 hour “breaking” stage when avocados are starting to soften, but are still too early to eat. If cut open during during the “breaking” stage, the avocado will still be too hard to use, it’s important to be patient. However, right after this period, the avocado is perfectly ripe.
These avocados were carefully packaged, and the instructions on ripening were very helpful.
I found this information especially interesting since most of the avocados I’ve bought at the supermarket are already starting to ripen, and are often overripe. In fact, my biggest problem is knowing when the avocados are ready to use.
Avocados waiting to ripen, day 1
The first avocados were ready by day 5; the last of the avocados ripened on day 9.
Although avocados sometimes get a bad rap for being fattening, they are actually very healthy. Did you now that Avocados:
Provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin K, B-vitamins and folic acid
Have mono and polyunsaturated “good” fats that can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease
Are packed with antioxidants that have been shown to help prevent breast cancer and prostate cancer
Contain phytonutrients, which are believed to prevent many chronic diseases
Contain 60% more potassium than bananas, which helps protect your body against hypertension, heart disease and other circulatory problems
Act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients (e.g., alpha and beta-carotene and lutein) in foods that are eaten with the fruit
Now, let’s get onto those gorgeous avocados…As I patiently waited for my avocados to ripen, I started thinking about all the different ways I had enjoyed avocados in the past — smashed with a little lemon juice and salt and smeared on whole grain toast, sliced and served on top of a black bean diptartine, chopped and served as a garnish for Cuban Black Bean Soup, in salads with clementines and grapefruit, in mango avocado red pepper salsa, and of course, in guacamole.
As I dreamt of what I would make with all these gorgeous avocados, I knew one thing – these supersize Haas Avocados from California Avocados Direct deserved to be the star of the show, not to be used just as a garnish. I’d eaten avocados for breakfast, lunch, and snacks/appetizers, but not for dessert or in a smoothie.
As the avocados started to ripen, I became anxious, as I wanted to have a list of ideas to try at their peak ripeness. I wasn’t sure if they would all ripen at once, or over a period of time. Fortunately, these avocados ripened one or two at a time, so I had a chance to really enjoy them, and try out some interesting ways to serve them.
As I did a little research, I learned that avocados are a fruit and are commonly served as a shake in Southeast Asia and Brazil. In fact, in Southeast Asia, avocado shakes are often served with chocolate syrup or pureed strawberries.
I would never have thought to make a shake or smoothie out of avocado, but since it’s a fruit, it makes complete sense. Interesting, how in America, the avocado is treated like a vegetable and eaten that way, even though it is actually a fruit.
As I made more and more avocado smoothies, I realized how versatile this fruit was. Not only could these avocados be eaten chunky, sliced, or smashed, but whipped into a smooth creamy pudding, sauce or dressing.
First I tried a Basic Avocado Smoothie (“Sinh to Bo” as it is called in Vietnam or Avocado Shake in Brazil). Creamy and silky smooth, this smoothie was thick and luscious, with a velvety mouthfeel.
Then, to step it up a notch, I tried making a dessert using avocados, something atypical in the American use of avocados, but probably right at home in Southeast Asia or Brazil. Somehow, I was thinking of a Lava Flow concoction (a pina colada with strawberry puree) I had in Hawaii years ago, and I decided to try making something similar using avocados.
Dairy-Free Avocado Smoothie (“Sinh to Bo”)
Traditionally, sweetened condensed milk is used to make Sinh to Bo. I made this dairy free by using a non-dairy coconut milk beverage. This is more of a pudding than a smoothie. If you like a thinner consistency, just add more coconut milk beverage. The chocolate syrup is strictly optional, but makes this more kid-friendly.
Dairy-Free Avocado Smoothie (“Sinh to Bo”)
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 cup ice
- 1 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk or almond milk
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla