Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Avocado - Vegetable or Fruit?

Growing up in the warm, balmy surroundings under the almost always blistering Philippine sun, it never occurred to me to ask this question. Avocado is a fruit, no doubt about it. And so I grew up seeing it eaten as a fruit – a dessert, a sweet snack, a sweet, cool drink. It was, still is, a favorite ice cream Flavor of the Month by the 2 competing largest ice cream factories in the Philippines.

Here is how I usually ate my avocado, the way I saw my mother eat it too. After I carefully cut the avocado in half, all around, lengthwise, and scooped out the pit in the center, I would take one of the halves of the avocado, pour milk, preferably evaporated milk, in the hollow in the center left by the pit, take a generous spoonful of sugar and sprinkle all over the top, and just eat with a spoon right from the skin. If I wanted it cold, I would scoop out the flesh randomly into a bowl, add the milk and sugar, and some crushed ice cubes, and enjoy!

When my children were growing up, we planted two avocado seedlings I bought from a nursery. I was told it was the evergreen variety. The fruit was bigger and remained green, even when ripe. The seedlings grew into sturdy trees. Soon the branches were heavy with the beautiful green fruits, about 5” long, and maybe 31/2” at its widest point at the bottom, tapering to the point where it connected to the branch. The skin was green and smooth.

Harvest time meant milk shakes and ice cream we made from this fruit. The flesh of this avocado was soft and creamy, and not fibrous at all. For my little girls, of course I would make milkshake in the blender, using the same ingredients, adding more milk and sugar for a creamier, sweeter taste. And if I had some in the freezer, a couple large scoops of vanilla ice cream. Or I would pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and pop it in the freezer. The girls always loved this! They would be opening the freezer and sticking their little finger into the tray, every few minutes, to check if it was ready.

When they grew older, they would make the same recipe, minus the ice cubes, and pour just enough of the mixture into long, small, narrow plastic bags and tie the open ends securely. They put these in the freezer. This was locally called “ice candy.”

Fast forward now to my grandma years, in this other part of the world where my girls are now raising my grandchildren. Here are some reactions from our talks about how we ate avocado in the Philippines,
“That's gross!”
“You don't eat avocado that way!”
“That's a weird way to eat avocados.”
In fairness to my grandchildren, and to be honest, that's exactly how I felt, the first time I saw my son-in-law, eating avocado from the skin, but putting, to my horror, instead of my milk and sugar, a little olive oil and vinaigrette, and salt and pepper, in the hollow in the center! I think I blurted out.
“How can you eat avocado that way?!”

Well, to tell you the truth, I am now a convert – to guacamole, avocado dips, sandwiches and salads and soups, even sushi, with avocado, and the list goes on...It doesn't mean I have given up on avocado milk shakes and ice cream! It simply means, I have opened my eyes and arms to the infinite possibilities of this amazingly versatile food! Sweet, savory, spicy, cold, hot – the avocado can mix it up, and tame, satiate, calm, and satisfy the strongest craving of your palate. There's a whole world out there!

Milkshake or guacamole, anyone?

Avocado Milkshake

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 to 3 Servings

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 (14 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 cups ice cubes
  1. With a knife, halve avocados and remove pit. Using a spoon, scoop flesh and cut into cubes.
  2. In a blender, combine avocados, milk, sugar, lemon juice and ice. Process until smooth and blended.

Photo and Recipe from Kawaling Pinoy

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