Why eat avocados?
What looks like a bumpy black pear when it’s ripe, is pistachio green inside, sports one large pit and tastes like butter?
If you said, “butter fruit” or “alligator pear,” you’d be accurate, depending on whether you were living in West India for the former, or if you jumped into a time machine and traveled back to pre-1915 Florida for the latter.
It’s better known these days as an avocado, and it’s taken several millennia for this popular berry to reach its full potential as a superfood. The slow trek to understand why the Aztecs considered this versatile fruit an aphrodisiac is a yarn replete with ancient lore, multiple mispronunciations and uncertainty about how to eat this versatile-yet-finicky food.
Avocados have been cultivated on trees in Puebla, Mexico, Guatemala and South America for over 7,000 years. There is also a West Indian species, which is the largest of the three types and is bright green, compared to the darker-skinned varieties of the subtropical Americas.
Avocado trees were first domesticated 5,000 years ago, “making the cultivation of avocados as old as the invention of the wheel,” the site, Avocados From Mexico, notes.
The Aztecs believed that consuming what they called in their native Nahuatl language, “ahuacatl,” conveyed mythological strength, hence their use of the word for testicle. The resemblance to that part of the male anatomy isn’t a coincidence.
The fruit was discovered by Spanish explorers in the early sixteenth century and made its way through trade to the rest of Europe thereafter. Avocados arrived in the United States by 1833, where growers in California, Florida and Hawaii farmed them, but only to mild consumer interest.
People weren’t sure whether to eat them when they were rock hard, and softening the fruit was tricky. Mild tasting and oily, most people weren’t sure what to make of them if they happened upon a perfectly ripe specimen.
During this long stretch of years, the original Nahuatl word morphed into the Spanish “aguacate,” was sometimes spelled “avogato” or “ahuacate” and for the tongue-tied, slipped into “avogato pear.” The name “alligator pear” was dreamt up thanks to the skin’s bumpy resemblance to swamp dwelling creatures with very large teeth.
In part because of how hard it was to say the word — and because eating the flesh of a fruit that looks like an alligator wasn’t very appetizing — in 1914 California farmers took up the task of rebranding it. As difficult as it was to pronounce, it happened that growing them was relatively easy.
Thanks to a dream team marketing effort by the newly created California Avocado Association, the PR firm Hill & Knowlton and a mascot named Mr.
Crispy crab stuffed avocado with salsa crude and lime cilantro aioli is seen at Austin’s American Grill in Greeley.
Ripe Guy — because avocados are notorious for being able to discern when they are ready to eat — by 2021, the United States produced
149,600 tons that year, valued at $341.9 million, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.
And thanks to Super
Bowl ad promotions, people are shoveling down chips and guacamole faster than you can say, “touchdown,” bringing the Aztec testosterone mythology full circle.
Avocados are high in fat, a fact which created another stumbling block for growers during the 1980s, when nutritionists advised Americans to follow low-fat diets for better health.
The FDA has since revised guidelines on eating healthy fats. Avocados contain a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, considered good because it can help lower cholesterol. Eating them adds fiber and folate to your diet, including 6 grams of good fats, potas