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Help -- how to pick out a good avocado?

My last few purchases have been abysmal -- bruised or dark veins running throughout with a distinct bitterness.

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    1. We have two different varieties of avocado trees in our back yard. The link by foodyDudey is correct in that your best bet is to purchase avocados that are hard and then take them home to ripen. Unfortunately avocados can end up in your 'mainstream' markets already ripe, over ripened or if they aren't may sit unsold and end up ripe or over ripened. Avocados will not ripen on the tree. They have to be harvested. Harvested avocados may take some time before they end up in the market and, again they may sit unsold and over ripen. Along with the packaging and handling by growers, market personnel and shoppers they can end up bruised, brown/black, and mushy (if allowed to over ripen).

      To test for ripeness by cradling an avocado gently in your hand. Ripe fruit will be firm, yet will yield to gentle pressure. If pressing leaves a dent, the avocado is very ripe and suitable for mashing. They are best served at room temperature.

      I don't know if you have a Trader Joe's available in or near the area of which you live, but during avocado season they get hard unripened avocados that have been packaged in a 'netted' container, containing several avocados. These are the best for taking home to let them ripen. To speed up the ripening process, remove from netted container and place in a brown paper shopping bag & fold over the top and use a 'clip' to keep bag closed up. Store in a cool dry place and check back every couple of days or so for desired ripeness.

      1 Reply
      1. re: crt

        You have avocado trees in your yard??? Ok I'm jealous. I did plant the seed one time in one of house plant pots and it did grow to 4 feet. It lived for about 2 years and then died.

        To speed up the ripening process I like to include an apple in the brown paper bag. Perfect avocados every time.

      2. This is a challenge, and satifying to get right. I look at the color of the available avocados (I really only like Haas, over those big ones from FLA, but I haven't had any exotic types). I try to buy one where the skin is just turning brownish, if you catch it too late you'll have the dark spots and veins but if it's early enough the flesh will just be turning soft. I agree with the earlier poster, and article, that a good sense of touch is helpful. If you pick up green avocados and gently press they will feel hard, if you pick up a clearly brown one it will be soft, and often shriveled. So the game is to get them just when they're turning, it's a combination of experience and luck in the end.

        5 Replies
        1. re: steinpilz

          Please don't "gently press" the avocados. That will leave a spot of damaged tissue that will oxidize and turn rancid. Think how many people might be using your method before you get to the display!

          A local lady who grows avocados told me years ago: Look at the stem (top) end--is the skin starting to pull slightly away from the stem? Is the tissue there a bit wrinkled? Then its getting ready, another day or two and it'll be perfect. Don't expect to buy a perfectly ripe avocado the day you want to use it--especially if everyone has been "gently pressing' on it. Buy some greener ones and use them when they're ready.

          1. re: toodie jane

            Oh come on Jane, I could walk to work but this wouldn't solve our energy problems. Pressing the avocado flesh is completely acceptable.

            1. re: steinpilz

              "Pressing the avocado flesh is completely acceptable."

              Yes. But only for avocados that you have purchased and taken home to ripen. Otherwise keep your squeezing mitts to yourself if you plan to leave them in the store/market. ;-)

              1. re: steinpilz

                I agree with crt and others. You can pick up an avocado in your hand and feel its ripeness without pressing into the flesh. Pressing them is bad for all avocado fruit purchasers, as avocados bruise so easily. I actually bought a ripe avocado after this discussion started, and so this thread was on my mind while I picked it out. You can tell which is overripe, which is ripe, which is just getting ready to be ripe and which is hard, just by holding the fruit gently in your hand, no pressing necessary. Oh, and put it down gently if it's not the one you are going to buy.

              2. re: toodie jane

                This is why i buy the green ones and ripen them myself. Don't squeeze the Charmin.. uhhh I mean the avocados.

            2. I eat avocado pretty much daily. If they yield to gentle pressure that means a gazillion other shoppers may have had them do the same, and they may be bruised. I prefer them hard (talking about Hass' here- the dark bumpy guys) and I let them get ripe in a pretty lidded soup tureen on my counter. Only takes a day or two.

              1. I agree with Torty, the only way to get a great avocado at the perfect ripeness is to buy them hard and ripen them at home. I usually buy them 4-6 at a time and stage they from my fridge to the counter. Ya gotta let em ripen slowly too -- over a few days. Rushing an avocado to ripeness seems to result in maximum darkness, veining and bruising.

                1. Another one for buying a totally green avocado and ripening it yourself at home. Throw it in a brown paper bag to speed up the process. Or just leave it on the counter if there's no hurry... when the outside darkens and the stem easily pops out, it's ripe. No need to press on them... that WILL ruin an avocado. I know from experience!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: missfunkysoul

                    I would agree with missfunkysoul's suggestions and add the following:

                    Purchase only Haas avocados for the best creamy texture when ripened. Florida avocado's are not suggested.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      oh but there are so many more varieties nowadays that are fantastic. I don't remember the name but I had a black avo that you could eat the skin b/c it was so thin and it was soooooo buttery and flavorful. Very short season though.

                      1. re: justagthing


                        do we have to fly to Mexico for these too, or are they available closer to home? wink, wink.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Long Beach Farmer's Market on Sundays, there is a guy that brings in different varieties. So nope, no need to fly all the way to Mexico. I also remember when I was in Hawaii and had a huge avo there, wish we can get them here.

                  2. The best bet... get yourself a flight to any major city in Mexico, go to the nearest mercado, blindfold yourself and then just choose a random avocado from the pile... it will be dead ripe and ready for consumption that day... oh yeah and stick to the small Criollo varieties for superior flavor vs. the Hass variety


                    1. Third or fourth the recommendation to buy them hard and ripen at home. I know for a fact that my supermarket keeps "ripe" avocados refrigerated and brings them out as needed. When a ripe avocado has been refrigerated, the flavor is compromised and that's when you get the dark veins running through them. As for bruising, as others have noted, a ripe avocado bruises very easily and if lots of people have been pressing them in the market, they will be bruised. Both of these problems can be avoided if you buy them hard.

                      One final note -- avocados are better different times of year and depending upon where they are from. The last two avocados I bought were fantastic, but prior to that, there were a couple of months during which I didn't think they were that great, even when I'd ripened them at home.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DanaB

                        This time of year we are starting to see avocados from Uruapan, Michoacan... prior to that we were getting Chilean "paltas"... but there is still some Chilean fruit in the supply chain.

                      2. I used to work in a restaurant where guacamole was our specialty. As other posters have noted, to ripen an avocado you can put them in a paper bag or you can put them in the same bowl as the bananas and they'll also ripen. To test for ripeness rather than press the fruit, cradle in your hand and gently squeeze bc it's a weak grip you'll be able to gauge the firmness of the fruit without bruising.