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Published June 21, 2013, 11:57 AM

Prairie Fare: Grow a taste for heart-healthy avocado

“Let’s grow the avocado seed into a plant,” my 15-year-old daughter said one day as we prepared an avocado. We have tried this before without success, but sometimes persistence pays off.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“Let’s grow the avocado seed into a plant,” my 15-year-old daughter said one day as we prepared an avocado.

We have tried this before without success, but sometimes persistence pays off.

The process to root an avocado is straightforward. Rinse the avocado seed and then insert three toothpicks halfway up the seed. Next, fill a small, clear glass with water and balance the seed in the water using the toothpicks to prop the seed on the edges of the glass. Be sure the pointed end is pointing upward. About an inch of the seed should be submerged in the water.

Set the container in a warm place out of direct sunlight. With any luck, a small root will emerge from the flat (bottom) side of the seed and small shoots will appear from the top in two to six weeks.

We regularly watered the seed as it sat on the window sill by our kitchen sink. When roots appeared, we planted it in soil, but left half of the seed exposed. Now it is outside in a pot basking in the sunlight.

Maybe miracles will happen, and we will have a houseplant. If we lived in a much warmer climate, we could grow a tree.

Popular in Mexican cuisine, avocados are mashed and mixed with chopped onion, tomatoes and spices to form a tasty green dip known as guacamole. Some restaurants are featuring it as a colorful spread for sandwiches and burgers.

Avocado spread has been used for a long time, according to food history documentation. Because of its fat content, avocado was mashed to form a butterlike spread by early European sailors.

Avocado technically is a fruit, but it is used as a vegetable. Avocados contain more fat and calories than other fruits and vegetables. However, the type of fat in avocados primarily is monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, which are heart-healthy. Avocados contain a trace amount of saturated fat and no trans fat.

One-fourth cup of pureed avocado has about 96 calories, 9 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber.

Most domestic avocados are grown in California and Florida. When selecting avocados at the grocery store, pick them up and gently squeeze them in the palm of your hand. A ripe avocado yields slightly to pressure. If the avocado is not fully ripe, you can place it in a brown paper bag and hold it at room temperature for a few days.

Sometimes referred to as “alligator pears” due to their shape and rough green exterior, avocados can be peeled like other fruits and vegetables. Or if you want diced avocado, you can try another technique to avoid slippery hands. Simply rinse the avocado thoroughly with water, then cut the avocado in half lengthwise, going around the big seed.

Then set the avocado on a cutting board, seed end up, and hit the seed with the sharp end of a knife, keeping your hands away. Next, pull the seed from the avocado with the knife, or carefully twist the seed.

To slice it, hold the avocado in your hand flesh end up and slice long cuts to the skin but not through. To make cubes, cut crosswise, again not cutting through the skin. Finally, using a spoon, scoop the diced avocado out.

Keep in mind that avocados oxidize (turn brown) in the presence of oxygen, so be ready to use the avocado as soon as you prepare it. You can sprinkle the surface with lemon or lime juice to counteract the oxidation.

Here’s a recipe courtesy of Utah State University. With any luck, you can have a delicious dip and the potential to grow a houseplant at the same time.

Guacamole Dip

4 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 ripe medium Roma tomato, seeded and diced

½ cup minced sweet white onion

1 to 2 chili peppers, seeded and minced (or to taste)

½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Hot pepper sauce

Sea salt, to taste

White pepper, to taste

Note: You can adjust the spiciness of the dip according to the type of pepper you use. Rinse avocados, onion, peppers and cilantro under cool, running water. Cut avocado in large chunks and mash coarsely in large bowl with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and blend gently; leaving some small chunks is fine. Taste and adjust seasoning with more pepper sauce, salt and pepper if desired. Serve with sliced veggies or chips

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 170 calories, 15 grams (g) of fat, 2 g of protein, 11 g of carbohydrate, 7 g of fiber and 10 milligrams of sodium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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