Some of you are wondering if this is an April Fool’s joke. Sadly, it is not. I just finished reading a small item in Real Simple magazine about making guacamole out of hard avocados. Really.
Rock Hard Avocados
The avocados in the photo above were just picked and they’re rock hard. When a mature avocado is picked from the tree it IS rock hard. Avocados are supposed to be hard. The nice thing about a hard avocado is that you can take good care of it until it has softened and is perfect for eating. I hesitate to use the word “ripe” because technically a hard avocado IS ripe. It needs time to soften before it can be eaten.
The indication of ripeness in an avocado is the oil content. Oil? Yes! At the beginning of a new crop season (in December here in California) the state samples various sizes and varieties of avocado to determine the oil content. Unless that avocado has the right amount of oil, it won’t soften at all. It will just turn rubbery. Nothing anybody would want to eat. So even if an avocado looks ready in November, don’t pick it!
Avocado Oil Content
The minimum amount of oil is just enough to make the avocado edible. If you want really good avocado flavor (you do, don’t you?) then you must wait a few more months for the oil in the avocado to increase. I’m talking about the Hass variety right now, because they are the ones found most commonly in stores. If you can find other varieties like Bacon or Fuerte that are short season winter avocados, then you will want to go ahead and eat them between December and March. If you love Reed avocados ( the ones that look like cannon balls) you have to wait for July, because that’s when they will be mature enough to pick.
Best Time to Eat California Hass Avocados
Hass Avocados can be very tasty in February and March…but if you can wait until April – August, you’ll get the really delicious flavor and creamy consistency that makes a Hass avocado perfect for salads, sandwiches, or guacamole. The oil content continues to increase as the the avocado hangs in the tree, so if you get a Hass avocado that was picked later in the summer, it will be even more buttery and creamy. It will also soften sooner. (Try California Fuerte avocados in December-March…they’re amazing!)
How Long Until an Avocado is Soft Enough to Eat?
Since it’s the oil content that allows the avocado to soften, you will find that fresh picked avocados will take longer to soften in the early months of the year. Sometimes up to 2 weeks! If you are buying your avocados in a grocery store, they might have been picked 2 weeks ago…or 1 week ago…or even longer if they were shipped in from another country. Sometimes the avocados are kept in cool storage (to keep them from softening) and they get TOO cold. Then they may not soften at all, or you might find red spots in the avocados. For more information about ripening avocados, read The Secret For Perfectly Ripened Avocados.
What to Do with Hard Avocados
The best thing to do with hard avocados is to WAIT. I know, you wanted your guacamole for tonight’s party. We have the same problem here on the ranch. If I want avocados to serve for guests who are coming tomorrow, I needed to pick them a week ago. Avocados are just like that … they help us develop our skills for planning ahead! The best way to be sure to have ripe avocados when you want them is to keep a few on the counter at all times. If they begin to soften a day or two early, put them in the refrigerator. Just buy a few California avocados several times a week and you’ll be covered.
What About the Paper Bag?
Yes, you can put your avocados into a brown paper bag with an apple or banana. The natural ethylene gas released by the fruits will hasten the softening of the avocado. But please don’t put that paper bag on a sunny windowsill, as a popular magazine recently reported. Avocados do not need to be exposed to heat or sun, and doing so may change the flavor or ruin them entirely. In fact, farmers go to great lengths to keep the avocados from getting cooked in the sun after they are picked. If you try the paper-bag-method, just put the paper bag on your kitchen counter.
What If I Cut It Too Soon?
Even the most experienced avocado-philes (myself included) can make an innocent mistake. You pick up the avocados one by one, hoping that you will find one that is perfect for eating right away. You gently squeeze each one…could this be it? Hmmm…maybe this one is ready. Should I cut it and find out? At this point you have to decide whether you are willing to take the risk. If the avocado “gives” slightly as you gently squeeze it, you are probably okay to go ahead and cut it. If the green Hass avocado color has darkened to a blackish green and it definitely feels soft when you gently squeeze it, you are good to go. If the skin has some dimples in it and it’s black and feels squishy when you squeeze, you have waited too long. Go ahead and cut it open, but cut off the bad spots or the flavor of your guacamole will be affected.
But what if you decide to cut that avocado and when you twist the halves apart you realize that it was too early for the fruit to be soft enough to eat? I have heard that some people just put that avocado into a smoothie. We have tried putting the two halves back together (with the pit still intact) hoping that it will still soften. I can tell you that it doesn’t really work well.
Most Outrageous Thing I Have Read Lately
Another solution that I read in a magazine is to make guacamole by putting the hard avocado in a blender with a cup of peas. Honestly, I am still shaking my head over that one. In the first place, an avocado that has not softened is not going to taste like ripened avocado. Be honest if you are going to talk about making guacamole, please. I can understand that well-intentioned avocado marketing folks would like to tell the world to buy avocados and make guacamole. But what happens if someone actually believes that a hard avocado can be put into the blender with peas? I called my friend Rachael at La Fuji Mama, who is a one of the most well-informed avocado lovers I know, and read the magazine excerpt to her. After we both stopped laughing, we just couldn’t get over that anyone would print such misinformation.
What Questions Do You Have About Eating Avocados?
There was a time when I didn’t even know how to cut an avocado open and eat it. I was born and raised in Vermont and came out to California to attend graduate school, but stayed after I found a job. I had no reason to wonder about avocados until one evening when I met The Farmer at a social event for singles. He had been farming avocados for ten years when we met. Out of curiosity I innocently asked him if avocados grow on bushes! Now that we’ve been married for 31 years and have spent the whole time farming avocados, I think I can answer a few questions about avocados myself! I’ll be glad to help anyone who wants to ask about ripening, cutting, slicing or preparing avocados. Just leave your questions in the comments, or come visit me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Don’t Try to Make Guacamole With Hard Avocados, Please
If you want to know how we make guacamole for a party, here’s the post I wrote about that. How We Make Guacamole For a Large Party No matter how much we might wish that rock hard avocados could be made into guacamole, it just isn’t true.
By the way, we do ship our fresh California avocados direct to avocado lovers all over the USA. If you’re interested, check out CaliforniaAvocadosDirect.com for boxes of fresh avocados, including Hass, Fuerte, and Reed avocados in season.