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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

avocado (or avocado pear) Persea americana, a fruit unlike any other, with its buttery flesh and single large stone. Of all fruits the avocado is highest in protein and oil content. The latter may reach 30 per cent and the avocado is therefore a powerful source of energy.

The avocado tree, a member of the laurel family, is native to subtropical America, where it has been cultivated for over 7,000 years, as archaeological remains demonstrate.

There are three original races of the species. The Mexican type, which was called by the Aztecs ahuacatl (which meant ‘testicle’ and is the source of ‘avocado’), has a plum-sized, smooth-skinned, purple or black fruit, and foliage with an anise scent. It matures in the autumn and is hardier than other kinds. The Guatemalan type bears larger fruits with a rough skin which is green, purple, or black in colour; these fruits mature in spring or early summer and store well. The W. Indian type has the largest fruits, up to more than 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) in weight with a smooth skin, usually light green and of medium thickness.