Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

The avocado tree Persea americana is a native of Central America and a member of the laurel family, a relative of the bay laurel, California bay, and sassafras. Like its relatives, it has aromatic leaves that are used as flavorings. Avocado fruits are remarkable for containing little or no sugar or starch, and for being as much as 30% oil, the equivalent of well-marbled meat (but marbled with olive oil; avocado oil is largely monounsaturated). They apparently evolved to appeal to large animals with a high calorie requirement. The name comes from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, which was apparently inspired by the fruit’s pear-like shape and irregular surface; it means “testicle.”