Choosing one rock-hard avocado over another
October 2, 2009 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Choosing from a bin of unripened avocados.

I like to pride myself on my fruit and veggie selection skills, but I haven't yet managed to figure out what to look for in unripe avocados. I do know how to choose a nicely ripened one, but my grocer rarely has any softer than a rock.

One recently bought avocado went through all manner of ripening techniques over the course of 2 weeks before it finally began to feel soft. When I opened it to eat, it looked fine, but was still quite stiff, fibrous, even bitter, despite 'feeling' right on the outside. I'm thinking this one was a poor choice from the start, as I've never had to wait that long for one to pretend to ripen.

I am honestly afraid of this happening again. I love avocados and it was a test of my patience to wait so long for that one and be so sorely disappointed. They cost too much for such mistakes!

So, my question: Are there any good markers to look for in an unripened avocado? Bonus points for telling me what to avoid!
posted by sunshinesky to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
not a direct answer, but I take back veges like that all the time. For me it's not so much about reclaiming my $2 as voicing my displeasure to the grocer about stocking crap vegetables. ymmv
posted by H. Roark at 10:51 AM on October 2, 2009

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by an unripened avocado... Myself, I look for avocadoes with mostly purplish skin with still just a hint of green to them. Ones that are firm to the touch but with a little bit of give when you press with your thumb usually last at least a week for me before turning to mush. I've also been told to look for avocadoes that still have that little piece of stem attached as they seem to ripen prematurely without it.
posted by iceprincess324 at 11:01 AM on October 2, 2009

I can't help with the picking part, but if you cut open an avocado that isn't ripe, this is a tasty solution: cube the avocado, toss the cubes with blue cheese (stilton is good), pecans (or walnuts or almonds), Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper and bake at 350 for about 5-7 minutes. Serve with chips. Some folks add pancetta or bacon; some add an egg and bread crumbs; some add cream or sour cream. I don't, but YMMV.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:04 AM on October 2, 2009 [36 favorites]

Can you tell where they're from? I live in Avocadoland. Avocados farmed here are the BESTEST. Buy Hass variety, first of all. Nothing else is as tasty and nutty.

Avocados don't have a season, but I'll be damned if I'd ever buy one that wasn't from California or Mexico, and wasn't Hass. Ripen according to these instructions.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:13 AM on October 2, 2009

Avocados are designed to fall off the tree and ripen on the ground so there's no drawback to buying them hard besides waiting. Choose one that seems big enough, has no blemishes, discolourations or differences in hardness (so no hard spots), and, if possible, go for a variety you already know you like (Hass are good). But otherwise there's nothing to tell them apart by.

To ripen you just need to leave it in the sun, maybe yours didn't get enough light? Putting it in the fridge slows down ripening, so maybe yours was too cold? Two weeks is a long time, normally it starts straight away once you put it in the light, so it sounds like it didn't get the right cues somewhere along the way and never really ripened. This could be a weird variety thing or it could have been handled incorrectly before you got it, but if so you wouldn't be able to tell when choosing and they'd probably all be just as bad. The only way to avoid is to buy one that's already partially ripe.

There are strategies for the ripe ones based on feel and smell and whatever, if you're interested I can ask my colleagues who are avocado post harvest researchers and therefore world class experts on this stuff. But even they don't do anything special for the hard ones besides looking at size and for blemishes and just generally knowing the variety, after that it's all about the storing and handling to make them ripen correctly.
posted by shelleycat at 12:45 PM on October 2, 2009

Just to clarify, it WAS a Hass, right? Because some other varieties (ex: Bacon, Zutano, Booth, Lula) will always be stiff, and never mash to full creaminess, and have fiberous strings as part of their structure. Hass avocados can be identified by the pebbley skin.

Avocados, like bananas, are climacteric fruit. This means they keep ripening after being picked by a process involving ethylene gas. If you put an avocado in a brown paper bag, it will trap the ethylene in there with it and it will ripen faster. If you put a banana in there with it, it will ripen even faster, because bananas emit a lot of ethylene gas as they ripen.

Avocados will darken and fail to soften in the fridge, so if that's where your fail-ocado was, that's why.

How to pick avocados:

-Avocados start ripening at the broad end, then move toward the stem, so if you're looking for softness check the broad end.

-Avocados should be free of blemishes and dark spots.

-Avocados, and really every fruit and vegetable, should feel heavy for their size.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:09 PM on October 2, 2009 [6 favorites]

Apparently if you pick the little nub off the top and it's nice and green inside the pit left behind, you're good to go.

It could just be an old husband's tale (an old husband told me) so feel free to listen to others who are better versed in avocado pickage.
posted by cranberrymonger at 2:09 PM on October 2, 2009

One more point: when you're groping your avocado, ONE very soft/mushy spot, or a spot where the skin has detached from the flesh leaving an air pocket, is a bad sign and generally means you'll cut it open to find brown rot there.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:13 PM on October 2, 2009

Response by poster: Unfortunately most of these answers seem to point to ways to pick a good avocado that is already ripe. A good resource and all, but I can't stress enough that I'd like to know how to pick one from a bin made up entirely of green and rock hard avos-- my experience makes it seem clear to me that there are 'bad' ones, but I'm hoping that there's some way I can know before they are ripe. Maybe not?

I'm buying these in Canada, and they are generally Mexican Hass. Perhaps these factors are relevant, since I'm not at all near any avo farms.

Thanks for the input so far though!
posted by sunshinesky at 3:05 PM on October 2, 2009

Why wouldn't this answer help?
posted by yoga at 3:40 PM on October 2, 2009

I'd like to know how to pick one from a bin made up entirely of green and rock hard avos

I'll confirm this when I'm at work on monday to make sure I'm not missing something but: if a world class expert in avocado post harvest science can't tell the difference between totally unripe fruit, you won't be able to either. The differences in how it turns out are much more likely to be due to ripening conditions than anything intrinsic to that fruit vs it's orchard-mates.
posted by shelleycat at 3:52 PM on October 2, 2009

I'm aware that this will not answer your question as asked, however:

I see that you live up north. I'm not sure whether or not there are any Latino markets in your neck of the woods, but the many Latino markets in my neighborhood seem to pride themselves on having ripe avocados for sale. Which they should, given the deplorable conditions of the avos on offer at the local big box.
posted by OmieWise at 4:07 PM on October 2, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, I wish there were latino markets here. There may very well be one in Toronto, but I've never even heard of such a thing in any other major city I've lived in/visited. I will keep on the lookout.

Thanks, shelleycat. If there is no solid indicator of a good vs a bad green avocado, I guess I'll just have to try my luck. Couldn't hurt to find out though!

I'm just so disappointed with the particular avocado I described. I've never once had a problem, so I was honestly quite surprised. Usually my avos purchased in a similar state ripen up within 3 days outside of the fridge, faster, of course, in a bag. This one just didn't want to give.

Oh well. Can't win 'em all.
posted by sunshinesky at 6:38 PM on October 2, 2009

According to Harold McGee, "If these warm-climate fruits are refrigerated while unripe, their cellular machinery is damaged and they will never ripen; once ripe, however, they can be refrigerated for several days and retain their quality." On Food and Cooking, page 337 of the 2004 edition.

So, if you didn't refrigerate the avocado, someone else along the line may have. The best way to pick an unripe avocado is to pick a grocer who knows how to store an avocado.
posted by clockwork at 4:00 AM on October 4, 2009

« Older Holy cow that's a lotta beef.   |   Help me plan out a day in San Francisco and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.