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What Is an Avocado?

The avocado is a delicious, and common fruit—but it is, also, a rather strange one. Though it’s called a fruit, and is sold as a fruit, botanists actually consider it as closer to a berry. Plus, it’s often used in vegetable dishes, or (because of its high fat content and texture) it’s turned into a meat substitute in sandwiches and other dishes.

People are also at a loss as to how to describe the avocado. In some ways, it’s compared to a banana, maybe due to its texture (when mashed) and tropical origins. However, it is also very much like an olive, because of the high level of oil and slight hint of a nutty flavor. As for physical appearance, it can be a vibrant shade of green or a very deep, eggplant-like purple.

Nonetheless the avocado is a popular food. It was first grown in subtropical and tropical regions like Central and South America, though it also thrives in Asia and North American areas with warm climates like Florida and California.

There are many varieties of avocadoes. Those in Florida are called Fuertes, and tend to be watery. The Californian variety, called Hass (or Haas) is best for cooking.

Avocadoes are picked just before they are ripe. It then ripens off the vine and is best placed in the open air. The flesh is yellow-green, though it oxides upon contact with air and can turn into a brown color (prevent this by addming lemon juice). The pit or seed is not eaten and may be toxic, so discard out of reach of pets and children.

Featured in Science