Celebrate National Avocado Day held annually on July 31

From putting avocados on toast, adding them to scrambled eggs, smashing them up for delicious guacamole, and even making milkshakes with them, avocados are a unique and versatile food. These interesting fruits are certainly fun to eat, but they’re also nutritious. A native fruit from Mexico, Guatemala, and Central America, avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fat, which can reduce your risk of heart disease.

“Avocados are not also rich in potassium, fiber, and vitamins B, E, and C. They also contain several plant-based nutrients, like phytosterols a compound that can lower cholesterol. Leutin and zeaxanthin, also found in avocados, are carotenoids, antioxidants that protect healthy cells, especially in eyes,” said Dr. Penelope Mateos, who has long been interested in researching the benefits of avocados.

We have been enjoying these healthy super fruits for a long, long time. In fact, archaeologists have found evidence that wild avocados were gathered and eaten in central Mexico as early as 8000 B.C.

The classic, age-old battle with avocados, at least in modern times, is how long do you wait to eat them- and often the avocado wins. A ripe avocado, prime for eating, will yield to a gentle squeeze. If they feel very soft when squeezed, they are overripe. Also, the flesh of an avocado browns quickly when cut, but a quick sprinkle of lemon or lime juice can prevent discoloration.

Another battle, with the Florida avocado, is laurel wilt, a disease transmitted by the ambrosia beetle and a fungus, Raffaelea lauricila, that causes trees to wilt rapidly, eventually killing it. Scientists at UF/IFAS are working to find the best ways to fight this avocado killer that was first detected in Georgia in 2002. It was discovered in a commercial avocado grove in Florida in 2012,

“Laurel wilt is an insect-disease complex, a combination of the redbay ambrosia beetle and a pathogen, which was unprecedented for the western hemisphere at the time of discovery,” said Jonathan Crane, associate director of the Tropical Research and Education Center and an Extension tropical fruit specialist for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). He went on to explain, “Coordinating efforts among plant pathologists, entomologists, epidemiologists, agricultural economists, plant physiologists and horticulture scientists have helped us look at this disease from numerous angles to find answers and control the spread.”

So, as the battle to save the Florida avocado goes on, it’s perfect timing for National Avocado Day. Held annually on July 31, activities like wearing avocado face masks, making a moisturizing foot scrub, trying new tasty dishes with avocado in them, and even taking the large pit (seed) and growing your very own avocado tree are all acceptable ways to celebrate! Local restaurants, like Paleteria La Victoria, are known to get into the festivities, too. Offering specials on menu items with avocados as the main ingredient.

Caloosa Belle/Danika J. Fornear: Fornear Family Favorite Avocado-Chocolate Pudding.

You can also try my family’s favorite recipe for avocado chocolate pudding:

• 2 large avocados, pits removed
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 3/4 cup honey (we use the Sea Grape honey from Harold P. Curtis Honey Co.)
• 1/3 cup fresh orange juice (or more)
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 cups goat milk (heavy cream works well here, or ANY milk)
• ¼ of chopped nuts and/or dried fruit (optional, we use dried mangoes… you can also add peanut or almond butter as a variation)

• Scoop avocado flesh into a blender along with other ingredients (except chopped nuts or dried fruit) and blend, adding more orange juice as needed, until smooth and creamy.

• Divide pudding into small bowls and chill, uncovered, at least 2 hours. Serve with sprinkle of nuts or dried fruits on top.

• This pudding can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

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