By José C. Marmolejo
Mexico has been exporting avocados since 1980 but not due north. Europe was its first international destination and 10 years later Japan and Canada became hooked on this wonderful Mexican fruit. It only took 27 years for Mexican avocado exports to break into every state in the U.S. market year-round. During the last 10 years, Mexico has seen an exponential growth in the number of producers, packers and exporters, and land devoted to the crop. The most significant fact is that 82% of the producers are small farms, properties of less than 40 acres according to the Avocado Producers, Packers and Exporters Association of Mexico. These data reflect that the economic impact of the crop has benefited many families and hasn’t concentrated in a few big farmers. These numbers continue to improve and the social value of this crop therefore is growing. Another interesting fact is that 84% of the 1 million tons of avocado exports end in the U.S.
What’s behind this phenomenon? Fertile soil, warm climate, and relative proximity to the U.S. border added to a desirable fruit flavor–with addictive properties when combined with chiles–are some of the reasons for the avocado success. The state of Michoacán is the preeminent producer with the state of Jalisco coming in second. But the most notorious characteristic of avocados is that they seem to have been created to be traded: the tree produces a ripening inhibitor and once the fruit is harvested, it begins to ripen. This allows to harvest “just in time” by the size you need, all beginning to mature uniformly on the day you need to ship. Almost like a factory!
On the demand side, it has been stimulated in the U.S. by an ambitious marketing strategy that includes digital marketing, famous chefs and celebrities hired as spokespeople, marketing alliances and strong supermarket presence. We must not count out the 30-second spots in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Super Bowl. As a result, the U.S. yearly per capita consumption has raised from 3 to 5 pounds in only 5 years. All of the above has had an impact on avocado prices in Mexico too. As producers increase volume and quality for desired exports, the local prices in Mexico reflect the higher overall demand but higher quality is now available. But let’s take a break. Writing about food is paramount to watch cooking shows on TV, you always end hungry. Did you know it takes the same amount of time to prepare a couple of Guacamole Tostadas than a couple cups of coffee? I’ll do the first. Writing about food has its rewards…
Now that we are into eating avocados, I remember during my school years in the U.S., I had some friends from New York who liked avocados and wanted to show off their eating avocados skills. They washed the fruit and began to eat them biting them directly over the skin! Not even salt added! It’s true that the skin is edible but the texture and bitterness kills the subtle flavor of the pulp and there is no real pleasure on that. It’s also true that there are native varieties in Mexico with very thin and black soft skin that you can squeeze the seed out with your fingers and put all the rest in a warm tortilla with salt and you have an instant avocado taco with the benefit of a free natural vermifuge contained in the skin. This according to Mexican traditional medicine.Around the world however, the most sought after variety is Haas. It was developed and patented in 1935 by Rudolph Haas, a postman from Los Angeles, California, turned horticulturalist. It was the first patent granted to a plant but after 17 years, the patent expired and Mr. Haas didn’t see much profit. This variety made its way to the state of Michoacán in Mexico where through grafting to native trees, it adapted very well and produced excellent fruit year round. But aside from adaptation, the thick skin of Haas is the best shield for packing and shipping, plus extends its shelf life. Also to be noted is that the variety of sizes in the trees, allows for specific packing for supermarkets or restaurants.
We are going to leave out the details of preparing and serving an Avocado Cappuccino because fads are fads, but we cannot leave out mentioning the term “Avocado Hand.” Defined as a hand injury result of a failed attempt to cut into an avocado, this is by far an event of more serious than eating an avocado with the skin on it! It’s now becoming more frequent in Emergency Rooms to treat people who have stabbed their hand after fighting an avocado with a knife. Meryl Streep did not think much about showing her bandaged hand in public and raising awareness about it. But we don’t want to scare you and we don’t want you to hurt yourself, so, take a moment and enjoy Jamie Oliver’s video about it.
After watching the video, make yourself some “Safe Guacamole.” It’s highly recommended… Buen provecho!!!
Chilled Avocado Soup
2 avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
2 cans (14 oz. each) low-fat chicken broth
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup Mexican crema (creme fraiche) or sour cream
Finely diced tomatoes to taste
Finely chopped parsley or cilantro to Taste
In a blender combine 1 of the avocados,1 can of the broth, pepper, salt and hot pepper sauce. Process until smooth and creamy; transfer to a medium bowl.
Repeat with remaining avocado and broth; stir into the bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap on surface of the soup; refrigerate until very cold.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls, dividing evenly. Garnish each portion with a spoonful of cream and a sprinkle of tomatoes and parsley.
Yield: 4 servings; Heat Scale: Medium
Avocado, Tomato and Goat Cheese Toasts
1 avocado, halved pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
3 tbsp. vinaigrette dressing.
1 package prepared goat cheese (about 4 oz) or cream cheese about 4 oz.
16 slices French or Italian bread, toasted
In a shallow bowl, gently toss the avocado and tomato with dressing (avocado and tomato can be prepared up to six hours before serving).
At serving time, spread about 2 teaspoons cheese on each toast slice. On each toast, place an avocado slice on one side and diced tomato on the other. Repeat with remaining toast, avocado and tomato.
Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, chives, green onion, and ground black pepper, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings
Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche with Avocado
1/2 lb. large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed, and halved, 21-25 per lb.
1/2 lb. sea scallops, quartered
1 – 1/2 cups fresh lime juice juice from 6-8 limes
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced
1 medium red tomato diced
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro or celery leaves
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, seeds and veins removed finely diced
Combine the lime juice, shrimp, scallops and onion in a medium glass bowl. Toss to combine, cover with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator to marinate for 3 hours or until the shrimp and scallops are white in color.
Drain the liquid from the shrimp-scallop-onion mixture, but do not rinse. In a large glass bowl whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, and salt. Add the avocado, tomato, cilantro, jalapeño pepper and marinated seafood. Toss gently to combine, and serve immediately
Yield: 4 servings; Heat Scale: Medium
José C. Marmolejo was born and raised in northern Mexico where he graduated from college as an agronomist. He obtained two postgraduate degrees in economics, one in the U.S. and another in France. An entrepreneur by trade, he always been around great food. Today, José is a consultant on sustainability issues and enjoys living in Mexico City.
Featured Image: ByKjokkenutstyr (Avocado in Bowl White – Flickr) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons