Flash in the Pan

Thinking outside the guac


There is much to adore about the avocado. It’s creamy as mayonnaise, with a mild, nutty flavor, and full of nutrients, which helps explain why consumption in the U.S. has increased five-fold in the last 25 years. This acceleration is all the more amazing given Americans only use them for guacamole and avocado toast. Today, I’ll give you some fresh ideas on how to prepare avocados for the Super Bowl, for Valentine’s Day and for breakfast

Avocados are technically berries. As such, avocados are the fattiest, most protein-rich fruit on the planet. The Aztecs, the first people to eat avocados, named them “huacatl,” which means testicles, as they hang in pairs from trees. More recently, they have been nicknamed “alligator pears,” based on their shape and the color and texture of their skin. On our skin, avocados are prized for the moisturizing glow they impart. As a food, they’re full of vitamins and high in fiber, potassium and folate. They’re anti-inflammatory and lower the risk of heart disease.

Americans go through about 100 million pounds of avocados on Super Bowl Sunday, which makes February the time of peak demand. But last year, avocados were in short supply at this time. Mexico, the world’s largest producer, had a harvest that was uncharacteristically light. To make matters worse, Mexican imports were banned by the U.S. after a USDA inspector received a threatening phone call from a cartel member. The avocado ban lasted almost a week, during which prices rose to a 24-year high.

Thirty percent of the world’s avocados are grown in the Mexican state of Michoacan, thanks to rich, volcanic soils and a humid, sub-tropical climate. Michoacan is also a center for narcotrafficking and was heavily impacted by the war on drugs, which forced many cartels to explore new income streams. Avocados became known as “green gold,” becoming a focus for the gangs. They got involved in all levels of the industry, including cultivation, marketing and transport. They threaten, tax, extort and kill farmers and sometimes take their land.

In addition to benefiting organized crime, avocados have an environmental cost. A single fruit requires 37 gallons of water to grow, and the rise in popularity has led to deforestation. This includes a third of Michoacan’s oak and pine forests, which is where the monarch butterfly, an endangered species, spends the winter.

The fact that one of our favorite foods can have negative environmental and social consequences is a dilemma, but it doesn’t mean we should quit avocados altogether. Many growers are small farmers who depend on them for income, and those that are being harassed by narcos aren’t helped by consumers’ refusing to buy their product. A growing number of certifications, such as fair trade, allow consumers to use their dollars to leverage the cultivation of avocados in ways that are socially beneficial and environmentally friendly. So far, fair-trade avocados only amount to about 3 million pounds annually, but the number of participating farmers and organizations is growing.

So, now that we have considered the many angles on avocados, here are some ways to prepare them that you may not have tried.

Avocado scrambled eggs

The idea of heating avocados may seem strange, but once you’ve tried them in scrambled eggs, you won’t look back. If you know how to scramble eggs and open an avocado, you can make this dish.

For two eggs, cut an avocado in half and scoop out the flesh. Use a spoon or knife to cut it into small pieces, and set it aside.

Next, beat and salt two eggs and scramble them in oil or butter on medium heat. As soon as the eggs start to set up, add the avocado pieces and scramble them home.

To make the dish more Super Bowl-friendly, serve it with corn chips and salsa. After all, salsa is a perennial favorite condiment on scrambled eggs, and mixing salsa with avocado is a quick and easy way to make guacamole.

Chocolate-avocado mousse

With no offense intended, a selling point of this mousse is that it doesn’t taste like avocado. It’s as thick as truffle ganache and tastes like pure chocolate. Valentine’s Day lands two days after the Super Bowl this year; if you’re looking to hit both holidays, stock up on some alligator pears. If the pudding is too rich for your taste, add more milk and serve it as a milkshake.

Serves 2

2 ripe avocados

½ cup cocoa powder

¼ cup milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

¼ cup maple syrup or sugar

Add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Scoop out of the blender, making sure to lick all utensils, and serve.


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