Reader Ilana sent me an interesting question: How do you tell if an avocado is ripe? Well, sometimes it’s difficult because avocados ripen unevenly. The lower wide part, surrounding the seed, ripens faster than the thickest part of the avocado’s neck.
I’ve had avocados get brown and spoil before ripening. I presume it has something to do with the way they were grown or stored. Usually an avocado ripens on the counter within a week. To make it ripen faster, put it in a paper bag in a drawer and check it every day.
The avocado on the left is ready to eat. You can tell because the skin is starting to get brown and wrinkled. The unripe one is textured, like all avocados to varying degrees, but not wrinkled or shrunken.
When you press the skin of a ripe avocado it will give. It’s similar to a pear: Hard means unripe, soft but firm is ripe, and mushy is over-ripe. But unlike pears, the very soft brown spots on avocados are bitter and inedible. You can’t miss the spots when you open the fruit. Cut off the brown and eat the rest.
When I opened the ripe one this is what I saw:
The slight brown streaks tell me that the avocado is slightly overripe and would have been perfect the day before. But that’s how it is with all fruit: It’s tastier the day or two after the peak of ripeness than it is the day before. We can’t always get to fruit on the right day, so it’s best not to be too fastidious about eating perfect fruit.
The flesh of over-ripe (but still edible) avocados is all yellow, very soft, and might have bitter mushy brown spots. That brown spot on the lower right is where the stem was attached.
If you cut through the skin of an avocado and meet resistance, it’s not ripe. Remove the knife, leave the fruit for a day or two, and remove the original cut edge.
With a ripe avocado, the skin pulls off the flesh easily. The thin skin of the variety pictured above may tear but the thicker-skinned varieties will not. Even if the skin is thick you can feel the degree of ripeness, although the color change may not be as obvious.
After it’s ripe, store it in the refrigerator. Use it for avocado salad or cube it into a vegetable salad. Stuff it with chumus, spread it on bread or eat it at is. That’s what I did with this one.
To cube an avocado can cut it in half, remove the seed, and cross-hatch it with a knife just through to the skin. Then slide the knife between the flesh and the skin to remove the cubes. Or slice the fruit in wedges including the skin, then peel off the skin by hand. Use a spoon to scoop out flesh that sticks to the skin. Also use a spoon if you’re going to mash it or eat it plain.
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