Since this fruit is most often available in stores before it has ripened, it is best to depress the outer skin lightly to make sure it is firm and not too soft. As the avocado ripens, it becomes soft to the touch and can be depressed easily, but should not be mushy. Unripened avocados can be ripened by placing them in an open area at room temperature for a week or for faster ripening, wrap them in newspaper or a brown bag and keep them at room temperature for several days. A ripe avocado should mash well yet be firm enough to be easily cut into slices. When opening an avocado, slice it lengthwise cutting around the pit and around the avocado. Grasp both sides, twist the halves in opposite direction and lift apart. By hand or with the use of a fork, remove the pit. After exposing a sliced avocado to air, the flesh begins to discolor, so if necessary to extend the color, coat or place the exposed avocado flesh in lemon or lime juice. If stored whole in a refrigerator the ripening process begins to decrease slightly, but make sure they are not exposed to temperatures below 42ºF or they will begin to spoil and become bitter tasting.
There are over 350 varieties of avocados grown throughout the world ranging in size from 5 ounces to over 4 pounds with shapes that may be round, elongated or pear-shaped. Some of the most common varieties include the Bacon from Spain, the Edranol and Reed from Guatemala and South Africa, the Benik, Ettinger and Pinkerton from Israel, and the Fuerte, Hass, Nabal, Ryan, and Wurtz grown in many different countries. One variety that is not often found are mini avocados, which are elongated and do not contain a pit. They have a dark green outer skin which surrounds a pale yellow inner flesh with an appearance similar to a small zucchini.
Avocados can be eaten fresh as an appetizer or served with greens as an ingredient in salads. They can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients, such as crab meat or fish and they are often mashed to be made into a sandwich spread or dip. It is a fruit that goes well as an accompaniment to turkey, chicken, lean game birds, or fish and seafood. The oil in the flesh of this fruit gives it a slightly nutty and rich flavor that goes well when partnered with highly acidic or sweeter fruits such as canteloupes, grapefruits, oranges, papaya, pomelo, or tomatoes. A popular appetizer made with avocados is guacamole, which blends the fruit with other ingredients to be served as a dip for crackers and chips. Since this fruit should not be exposed to excessive or long periods of heat, it is not suitable in dishes requiring extended time for cooking. This fruit may also be referred to as Aguacate which is the Spanish word for Avocado.