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Avocado/Avocado pear (Persea Gratissima)
A tree native to Central America and a member of the lauraceae family, that includes the bay tree. The avocado is the only member of the family known for the importance of its fruit, which is green and pear-shaped, with a soft, creamy-textured flesh. It is now cultivated in Australia, California, Florida, Israel, the South of France, Spain and South Africa. The fruit is sometimes known as Alligator pear.
There are three distinct types, which can be distinguished by their skin - Guatemalan: with thick, woody skins; those from the West Indies: with thinner, more leathery skins; and Mexican: small fruit with thin, membranous skins. Fuerte - perhaps the most popular commercial variety, is thought to be a hybrid of Mexican and Guatemalan parents. Rough-skinned Hass avocados (possibly the best) are based on a Guatemalan-type tree, which was growing in the garden of Mr. Hass, who was a postman in California - the fame of this tree reached an Israeli expert, who travelled to America, and was given cuttings - these were then grown commercially, and the rest is history.
When the fruit is ripe, the texture of the fruit yields to the touch as though the skin contains butter, and the skin should easily peel off, and the central stone can easily be removed.
When the flesh is exposed to the air, it quickly becomes black, and although not inedible, looks unattractive - this process can be delayed by rubbing it with lemon. If having avocado flesh that''s gone black, the colour will improve if the flesh is cooked; it can then be served mixed with a tomato sauce or with crisp bacon.
The fruit is rich in vitamins, 14 in all; but A, B¹, B² and C figure strongly; and 30% of the fruits weight is oil.
Medicinal uses: Avocados are beneficial for people with low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) as they contain Manoheptulose, a special type of sugar which depresses the secretion of insulin; thus in contrast to refined white sugar, it actually prevents low blood sugar.
The leaves from avocado plants are used in Latin America as a mild spice, having first been toasted and ground - the flavour resembles mild aniseed. See 'Alternative Medicine'