The Secret For Perfectly Ripened Avocados


Holy GuacamoleWe mixed up some guacamole for the “End-Of-Summer” Kick-Off  Party of our church choir last weekend.  As you may know, I’m the director of the group, which has grown to include up to 65 members.  When they get together for a party with spouses, we often have 80 – 100 people!   How do you manage to have enough ripe avocados on the same day to make guacamole and sliced avocados for a crowd like that?      I’ll give you the scoop on how we do it … it takes some planning and strategy to manage that many avocados!

First we have to decide when to pick the avocados.  You probably know that avocados do not begin to soften until they are picked from the tree.  They will stay hard as long as they are still on the tree.   Once they leave the tree,   the ripening time depends on several things.   We planned to use Hass avocados,  which are usually harvested in California between April and September.

Maturity:  Early in the season the oil content is lower than later in the season.  The maturity of the fruit will allow it to soften sooner.  Since our party was in August,  we knew it might not take as long for the fruit to soften as it would in April.   We also knew that the fruit  would be more buttery,  since the oil content is high at this time in the season.   It’s tricky to figure out exactly when to pick the avocados if we want them to be ripe on a certain day.   We decided to pick our avocados for the party one week before we needed them to be ripe.   If the party had been in April,  we probably would have picked them 10-14 days before we needed them.

picking avocados

This is my blogging friend Colette of “Learning To Eat Allergen Free”…she visited this summer and learned how to use a picking pole to get the avocados high up in the tree.

 Storing the Avocados:   Once the avocados are picked, we have to take special care of them  if we want to be sure they are all ripe on a certain day.  Some will ripen faster and some will take more time.   Lay them out in a single layer in a box if you want to slow down the ripening and eat them one by one.   Check them every day,  and when they’re beginning to soften,  check them twice a day!    If you want to speed up the process,  put some in a brown paper bag with a banana or apple,  and the natural ethylene gas emitted by the fruit will enable the avocados to soften.   This is not a hard-and-fast rule…it may or may not speed up the ripening by a day or two, depending on the maturity of the avocados.

fresh avocados

Hass avocados are green and rock hard when they are first picked.

When I take avocados to Vermont,  we put them in the cool basement (45 degrees) and bring them upstairs as they just begin to “break”…no longer rock-hard.  Early in the season (when the avocados aren’t as mature and the oil content is less) the avocados will stay hard and green for two weeks or more in the cool basement.  Upstairs we’ll put 2 or 3 in a brown paper bag (and carefully monitor their softening so that we can eat them when they’re perfectly ready.)   We may put several in a bowl…sometimes they ripen just as fast as the ones in the bag.  It is very important to watch the avocados daily if you want to eat them at peak ripeness.

unripe avocados

This box was full when we started, and each day we removed the avocados that were beginning to soften. The skin of Hass avocados also darkens as the fruit ripens.

Here in our kitchen in Southern California,  we keep some on the counter and eat them as they ripen…usually two or three at a time.  When we want to have a large quantity of avocados ripe on the same day,  we  put them all in a box and keep them  in the house (since the garage is pretty warm here in August).

avocados on the counter

These have been sitting out on the counter and are ready to eat…they’ll yield to slight pressure when you hold them in your hand and press gently with your thumb.

When we’re trying to ripen a huge quantity of avocados for a special occasion,   some will ripen earlier than others.   When they are just about ready to eat (and not over-ripe) we put them into the refrigerator for a day or two…not longer.   They will be fine for guacamole or slices,  but will taste better if brought to room temperature before eating.   We never refrigerate our avocados unless we’re trying to save a large quantity for a party.  Important to note:  do not refrigerate avocados unless they are ripe and ready to eat.  The refrigerator is too cold to allow a hard avocado to ripen.

avocados stored in refrigerator

Put avocados in the refrigerator when they are barely ripe if you need to hold them for a day or two. Do not let them get over ripe before refrigerating.

Review:  Various stages of avocado  ripeness are happening at one time, even if the avocados were picked on the same day:  1. Rock hard (in a box or bowl)

2.  Beginning to soften (in a single layer on the counter or in a box)

3.  Just about ripe  (monitor them so they don’t become over ripe!)

4. Ripe and ready (holding them in the refrigerator)

On the day of the party,  all the ripe avocados come out of the refrigerator to be cut and peeled.  It’s important not to use any avocados that have become over-ripe, mushy, discolored or have a strong odor.   An over-ripe avocado has an off-taste and odor…and it ruins a batch of guacamole!   Sometimes we just have to eat some avocados before they go “over-the-hill”,  even if we were hoping to save them for a party.  A perfectly ripe avocado deserves  to be eaten!

If your avocados look like this one,  you have waited too long.  Don’t let this happen to your beautiful California avocados!  Eat them when they’re perfect!

overripe avocado

An avocado that’s dimpled, and very soft is over ripe. Sorry, too late.

If you cut open an avocado and find that it’s mushy just next to the skin,  you can probably scrape that mushy part off and still use the rest of the fruit.   The avocado should not have a strong odor.

over ripe and mushy

The left side of this avocado is “over the hill”…but I would scrape off the mushy part and use the rest. The right side is still fine. The brown spot (lower right) should not be eaten.

Perfectly ripe avocados can be peeled…I don’t like to scoop out the flesh with a spoon because the most nutritious part of the avocado is next to the skin.  Any bad spots will usually stick to the skin when the peel is pulled away from the flesh.  If you scoop the fruit,  you can’t tell where the bad spots might be.

Here is a perfectly ripe avocado! The flesh is soft but still firm…not mushy…and still a beautiful green color! This is how you want your avocados to look when you eat them!

perfect avocado

A perfectly ripe avocado is still firm, not mushy, and will peel like this!

Now that we have ripe avocados, we’re ready to start making the guacamole.    Stay tuned for Part 2,  How We Make Guacamole for a Large Party!

peeled avocados

Avocados have been cut, pit removed and peeled…it’s guacamole time!

For more information about ripening avocados:   Making Guacamole With Hard Avocados

Summer on the Ranch: Avocado Harvest!

Want to order fresh California avocados from our farm?   California Avocados Direct







Ultimate Comfort Food: California Avocado Meets Vermont Cheddar

Grilled Cheddar with Avocado Sandwich

The ultimate comfort food

Sometimes we just need a taste of home.  For me, it’s when I’m under the weather.    As a child, I could stay home from school when I didn’t feel good and watch daytime television.  Shows like Father Knows Best,  The Donna Reed Show and The Andy Griffith show kept me company.   I would make myself a gooey grilled cheese sandwich and hunker down to watch Art Linkletter or Perry Mason.  Even when I was sick,  life was good.

Nowadays it takes a lot to make me stop, cancel work and activities,  see a doctor and lie down to get well.    A small consolation is that I can watch Food Network or Cooking Channel all day.  When I’m not dozing I can  play Scrabble on the computer.   If  I’m hungry,  I treat myself to a childhood favorite:  Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Cabot Cheddar.   I bring several 3 lb. boxes of the Seriously Sharp Cheddar home with me every time I travel to Vermont…and there’s an open box in our refrigerator at all times.

Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar

Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar

Cabot cheddar cheese brings back memories.  I remember eating those delicious grilled white cheddar cheese sandwiches at the “Ice Cream Place” in my hometown…a  cafe that was known for serving real ice cream from a local dairy.   My dad loved to have the white cheddar from Cabot with his apple pie, especially if the cheese was flavored with sage.   My husband and I visited Cabot creamery on our trip home to Vermont to meet my family…and we returned to California with an old fashioned wheel of Cabot cheddar (in our suitcase) to share with the California relatives when we announced our engagement.

Cheese Cutting Party 1981

Our "Cheese-Cutting" Engagement Party Sept. 1981

As you probably know by now, my husband is an avocado farmer. We live in the middle of thousands of avocado trees.  There are always plenty of avocados ripening on the kitchen counter.   Now when I make my beloved sandwich with the special Vermont cheddar cheese from Cabot Creamery,  I have to include avocado too.  No tomato.  Nothing but cheese and avocado  from our own trees.  Ummmmm.


cheese and avocado

Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, peel then slice the fruit

It’s a good idea to get the cheese slices and the avocado ready while the butter melts in the pan.

cheese sandwich

grill the bread in some butter while the cheese melts

I like to let the bread get browned and crunchy in the butter while the cheese begins to melt.

melting cheese

Cabot Seriously Sharpt Chedder begins to get gooey

When the cheese begins to get gooey,  I put the sandwich together and flip it over to let the cheese melt all the way through.

pulling the sandwich apart

Pull the sandwich apart when the cheese is melted

Since I don’t want the avocado to actually cook or get warm,  I just pull the sandwich apart when the cheese is all gooey and add the avocado slices with a little pepper.   No need for salt, as the cheese and the bread have enough salt already.


Crunchy Buttered Toast with Gooey Cheese and Delicate Avocado


Just seeing that sandwich makes me feel better!  Trouble is,  the delicious smell of the browned butter and the melting cheese brings the rest of the family into the kitchen to see what’s up.   Don’t ever make just one sandwich in our household!

Grilled Cheese with Avocado Sandwich

Seriously Sharp Cabot Cheddar with Seriously Delicious Avocados from

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