How I love Avocados!! Let me count the ways…
Rich, creamy, and nutritious. This superfood is calorific but filled with “good fats”. Versatile, tropical, luxurious yet simple; avocados can be used in salads and smoothies or dessert. With so many wonderful options and varieties from which to choose, how can one ever tire of this beautiful fruit?
As a child growing up in Guyana, I instantly loved the avocados which my Dad fondly referred to as a “Pear”. The ones I grew accustomed to were large and voluptuous, with a deep bright green skin. When sliced open, the thick flesh was light green or slightly yellow; buttery and sweet. I loved to eat avocados with a slice of fresh bread from Fung’s bakery; generously slathered with butter and lightly sprinkled with salt. This thought evokes childhood memories and I can almost taste the simple goodness once again.
When I attended College in the USA, I discovered another type of avocado; the Haas. At first, the sheer size was comical. This tiny little dark green fruit, bore no resemblance to the one I had grown up knowing. I was amused, but being desperate to savor an avocado, I bought one. Surprisingly, the taste was good. In fact, it was far better than I had expected. Later I realized that there were so many other varieties of avocados from different parts of the world. It was also intriguing how different cultures used avocados in their cuisines.
The avocado is native to South Central Mexico. Archaeologists have discovered ancient fruit fossils in digs in Puebla, which date back some 10,000 years. It is also known as “Alligator pear” due to its slightly bumpy skin, and owing to its classification as a large berry with a single seed. There are written accounts which mention the avocado in Spanish documents from the 16th century. There are also accounts of it being in Caribbean islands in documents from the time of the slave trade. With ocean traders and migration, this Latin American fruit made its way across continents and seas. Today avocados are found all over the world but are grown mainly in areas which have a Mediterranean, subtropical, or tropical climate. Avocado trees do not tolerate freezing temperatures. The fruit must come to maturity on the tree, but can be picked and ripen off the tree. They usually ripen about 2 weeks after being picked; depending on the way they are stored.
Living in Haiti, I have discovered so many other varieties of avocados. I can’t help but compare them to the ones I grew up with in Guyana. Perhaps this is sheer nostalgia on my part, but to this day, they are still the best I can remember. For the average Haitian, the avocado offers a power-packed addition to their diet. Like mangoes, the arrival of the avocado season is greeted with joy as it offers an economical and tasty addition to one’s diet. Most of the avocados here are a medium-sized variety and they vary in color from green to purple. The skins vary from smooth and thin, to thicker and slightly bumpy. There is also a rather watery variety which grows in the mountains. This gives credence to the fact that frost and higher temperatures are not good for this fruit. The ones which come from the warm plains or the coastal areas are of superior quality. Often, the avocados which make their way to Haiti from the DR are larger but not as comparable in flavor. Perhaps they are picked too early for transportation reasons and were forced to ripen under conditions which compromised the taste. When the avocado season comes in the spring months, I am thankful as I can enhance my salads, enjoy my toast, make great guacamole, or even just appreciate the buttery taste of a slice of avocado with any meal.
Here is a recipe from my Guyanese repertoire: Curry shrimp in avocado. The perfect pairing of spicy shrimp curry in a beautiful fresh avocado boat. This appetizer is Magic on your palate!
Serves 4 as an appetizer
2 medium-sized avocados (no bigger than the size of an apple)
1 lb cleaned and deveined shrimp, cut into 3 pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp butter
1/4 tsp cumin powder
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp hot pepper, chopped (optional)
1 tsp ketchup
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/2 bouillon cube, crushed (optional)
Chopped parsley to garnish
Season shrimp with soy, salt, and black pepper. In a medium sauté pan, heat oil and butter. Add curry powder and cook together. Add onions and garlic, stirring together well. When onions become translucent, add the shrimp and coat well with seasonings. Add the ketchup, lime juice, lime zest, hot pepper (if using), and cream. Crumble the bouillon cube (if using) and combine in the sauce. Taste for salt. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Cut avocados in halves. Divide the shrimp curry into 4 portions and spoon into the avocado. Do not add too much sauce.
Note: Have all of your ingredients prepped and close by. Everything will come together quickly and you do not want to overcook the shrimp. The curry should not be saucy, as this will make the dish difficult to serve in the avocado half.
Optional: you can cook the shrimp curry and double the portion served with steamed jasmine rice and sliced avocado on the side as a meal.