How to ensure you have a ripe avocado every time

Kevin Farrell

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One of life’s great pleasures is the act of cutting into a just-purchased avocado, and to find the green flesh within perfectly ripe and creamy. The ideal avocado is soft enough to mash or spread, yet firm enough to hold its own against the slice of a blade, or even a rough chop. But far too too often, the suspense of slicing into a fresh fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) is met with the heartbreaking reveal of firm, pale flesh much too hard to actually ingest – or worse yet, finding only sour, browned insides that have already spoiled. Every avocado deserves a hero’s death, eaten and enjoyed while perfectly ripe. Here’s how to make sure you’re picking (and preserving) your avocados at their peak:


What to look for in the grocery store

Perfectly ripe avocados – and we’re talking about the Haas variety here – possess such a deep, dark green skin that they should appear black. If you can see more than a hint of green throughout the skin, the fruit is likely not ripe just yet. Another visual cue is hiding just at the stem; this is is where you want to see green. Disregard any fruit with browned out, dry spots on the skin, or areas where the flesh within appears to be caving in. The skin should be supple and taut, as if the fruit inside is pushing outward from the center.

How a ripe avocado feels

My local food co-op has a sign posted among the avocados that politely asks, “no squeezing, please.” That’s fine with me, because squeezing isn’t quite the verb you want to employ when selecting your fruit. Lightly press your fingers against your temple or the crown of your skull. The soft, thin layer of flesh atop the ultimately resistant bone underneath is essentially how a ripe avocado ought to feel in the palm of your hand. You don’t want to squeeze it so much as you just want to just hold it in your hand and lightly press against the skin.

Preserving uncut avocados

For all the joking we do about the window of avocado opportunity being extremely tight, the truth is that the fruit actually has a peak ripeness period of a couple days or so. Leaving ripe avocados on the counter for a day or two before eating is usually fine, but you’re pushing your luck by the time that third day comes around. To slow down the ripening process on fruit that you’re not yet able to eat, toss your avocados in the refrigerator. But be certain that when you take them out, that you’re ready to use them. Temperature swings from hot to cold and back again can degrade the taste of the fruit.

Accelerating the process for unripe fruit

Look, sometimes you have no choice but to buy an unripe avocado. And while you might not be able to immediately dig into prematurely picked fruit, there is one thing you can do to move things along much more quickly. Bananas, you see, are actually a natural ripener when in close contact with other fruits and vegetables. Placing an unripe avocado on the counter cradled by a bunch of bananas can dramatically speed up the maturation process. To dial up the speed even more dramatically, try putting an avocado and a banana into a brown paper lunch bag together. It can take as little as a day to reach optimum ripeness this way.

Preserving an uneaten half once cut

Sometimes a whole avocado is just too indulgent to enjoy all by yourself. Keeping the uneaten half fresh for a future meal is actually super simple. The trick to preserving avocado halves is to keep the pit in the uneaten side. The pit doesn’t actually possess any sort of magical preservation ability, but it does prevent an enormous portion of the fruit interior from being exposed to harmful oxidation. Less surface area means less opportunity for browning to occur.

Store the pit-hugging half in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator until you’re ready to take another crack at finishing it off. And if you’ve got any onions on hand in your pantry, adding a slice to your avocado container will also help extend the freshness, so long as you’re willing to put up with a light oniony taste.

Always buy two

Hey, even the best of us make mistakes, right? Always have a Hail Mary on hand by employing the buddy system when avocado shopping. If there’s a lemon lurking inside one, this way you’ll always have a backup.


Kevin Farrell

About Kevin Farrell

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