California is widely known for its continuous sunny weather, its long stretches of beautiful beaches, and iconic destination spots. But in recent years, California has also become an adjective—as in, “I’ll have that California-style.” So what makes a dish “Californian?” It’s not a tan and Rainbow sandals, nor does it require blonde hair and a surfboard. Rather, a green fruit with a buttery texture is responsible for turning an envied state into a desired dish.
Now, Mardi Gras may usually be associated with drinking and debauchery, but who says you can't add some guacamole to the fun?
Fallbrook, which is located about 45 minutes outside of San Diego, is known as the Avocado Capital of the World. In fact, San Diego County produces 60 percent of all California avocados, according to the California Avocado Commission. When you drive through the small town of Fallbrook on the I-15, you’re surrounded by hills covered with avocado trees. “Avocados love it here,” said Coronado Farmers Market manager Mary Hillebrecht. “They love our environment. They love the soil and drainage in those hills.”
You can get the Fuerte variety everyday at Henry's or some especially delicious fruits at the on Wednesday. “It’s the variety that put California avocados on the map,” Hillebrecht said.
The Fuerte is the “original high quality California avocado,” according to the California Avocado Commission. It has a smooth, green skin that does not darken as it ripens. “The avocado will give to the touch like a ripe peach [when it’s ripe],” Hillebrecht said.
Other varieties, like the well-known Haas, have thick, bumpy skins that turn black the riper they become. The Fuerte’s skin is also paper thin. Once ripe, the flesh of these green guys can be scooped out extremely easily, leaving behind a flimsy, yet intact skin. It’s almost impossible to waste any of the Fuerte’s fruit flesh, making it the ideal avocado for things like guacamole. “They have a high oil content and mild flavor, not grassy or bitter,” Hillebrecht said.
Avocados are one of the fruits that do not ripen until they are picked. The longer they hang on the tree, the more their oil content increases. Avocados must have a certain amount of oil in them before you are able to pick them. The bigger the avocado, the higher the oil content. “I usually wait a little longer [to pick] for a better product,” Hillebrecht said. She sells her avocados for $1 or $1.50, depending on their size.
In years past, avocados got a bad rep for being a fatty food. On the contrary, avocados are one of the most nutritious fruits for you, as they contain monounsaturated fat, or “good fat.” They also contain healthy amounts of folate (a necessity for pregnant woman), potassium, and 13 essential vitamins like vitamin A, B, C, D, E and K. Plus, the creamy fruit is loaded with fiber to keep your digestion system on track.
She said buying at a farmers market is always the best bet for the best quality fruit. “The real advantage of these avocados is that they haven’t been in and out of a cooler. There’s rougher handling [of avocados] at the stores,” Hillebrecht warned.
Ask Hillebrecht for advice when picking out your avocados (she’ll know exactly when they’ll be ready for scarfing down) and use them in the following easy guacamole recipe to impress your guests for Mardi Gras!
The Scoop on Avocados (Taken from the California Avocado Commission)
- Avocados are sodium and cholesterol-free and have only 5 grams of fat per serving, most of it the monounsaturated kind.
- Avocados were once a luxury food reserved for the tables of royalty.
- Brazilians add avocados to ice cream.
- Filipinos puree avocados with sugar and milk for a dessert drink.
- California produces about 90 percent of the nation's avocado crop.
- There are about 6,000 avocado growers in California; the average grove size is around 10 acres.
- A single California avocado tree can produce about 500 avocados (or 200 pounds of fruit) a year.
- California avocado farmers rely on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to combat pests and diseases. As a result, California avocados rank among the lowest of all fruits and vegetables for pesticide use.
- Avocado tree roots stabilize the soil and prevent erosion.
Mardi Gras Guacamole
- 3 ripe Fuerte avocados
- 1 tsp. garlic salt
- ½ tsp. lemon pepper
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
- Cut the avocados in half, removing (and saving!) the seeds. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a medium-sized bowl.
- Sprinkle on the garlic salt, lemon pepper and cayenne pepper. Mash together with a potato masher until almost smooth. Mash less for lumpier guacamole.
- Add the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and lemon juice and mix well with a spoon.
- Serve with warm .
Tips and Variations:
- Garnish with or mix in diced red onion and chopped tomatoes.
- Add in some black beans for a protein kick.
- Use lime juice instead of lemon juice.
- Substitute your favorite hot sauce for the Tabasco.
- Use seasoned salt instead of garlic salt.
- Use fresh, minced garlic and cumin.
- Save those seeds! Simply placing a seed or two on top of the fresh guacamole will help the green dip from oxidizing, or turning brown (it looks pretty, too!)
- Spread on top of a bagel or sandwich