- Catching an avocado in its fleeting window of ripeness is notoriously difficult.
- Whether an avo will even soften at all depends on whether it was picked from the tree at the right point.
- There are ways to ensure the avocado you choose will ultimately ripen into a perfect one, though.
- You can also speed up the ripening process.
As delicious as they are, avocados are notoriously temperamental fruits.
It’s no secret that catching your avo in its small window of ripeness is extremely difficult – and there’s nothing worse than find one that’s too hard, or mushy and brown.
Then there are the avocados which seem never to soften at all, and you reluctantly end up eating the hard yet watery green flesh atop your toast.
Many people believe they have ways to hack the system – popping your avocado in the fridge to stop it ripening too soon, or placing in the oven on a low heat to speed up the softening process, for example – but how much can we really do? Does finding a perfect avocado really come down to pure luck?
As it turns out, there are certain things to look out for in the supermarket to ensure the avocado you take home will ripen perfectly.
First, however, it’s useful to know the science behind how avocados ripen.
How avocados ripen
Avocados don’t actually ripen while on the tree – it’s not until they’re picked that the flesh will start to soften. However, it’s important that the millennial staple is picked at just the right moment.
“The fruit does not ripen while attached to the tree, even when physiologically mature, because of an inhibitor in the fruit stem,” Kantha Shelke, a food and nutrition scientist and member of the Institute of Food Technologists, explained to HuffPost.
“It appears to be nature’s way of protecting the fruit from damage from high temperatures. Even exposing the fruits on the tree to ethylene [the hormone released by fruits and vegetables as they ripen] gas will not ripen it.”
It’s only once an avocado has been picked that it will start to soften, but it needs to stay on the tree long enough to ensure it has the right balance of oil and dry matter, which means it’s imperative that the fleshy fruit isn’t taken from the tree too early.
If an avocado is picked too soon, it will never soften, will remain hard and watery, and your brunch will be ruined.
How to pick a perfect avocado
There are a number of tricks you can use to ensure you choose a winning avocado, according to HuffPost:
- Give the fruit a gentle shake – if the seed rattles, the avocado should ripen quickly.
- Avoid avocados with loose skin.
- Steer clear of fruits that appear to be going bad at the stem end.
- Look for a classic pear shape.
- Avoid fruits that are softer in patches, as these are likely bruises.
- Don’t worry about blemishes or marks on the skin, though.
- Give it a gentle squeeze – if it slightly yields to pressure, it’s like to be ripe. If it’s very firm, it’s not ready, and if it feels very soft, it’s overripe.
Once you’ve selected your avocado and taken it home you’ll know it’s ready to eat when you remove the stem cap and underneath is green (if it’s brown, it’s overripe. Sorry).
How to speed up the ripening process
If you bought your avocado on Wednesday but by Friday it’s still on the firm side, fear not: there is a way you can ripen up your avo for the weekend, according to HuffPost.
All you need to do is place the avocado in a brown paper bag or sealed container alongside other fruits which produce ethylene, such as apples and bananas.
Don’t bother heating the avocado in the hope of it ripening, though. It apparently won’t work.