What You May Not Know About Avocados

28 01 2010

There’s often a division in the raw food world (and other health spheres) when it comes to fat versus fruit. Cultivated fruit gets plenty of flack for being sweeter and less nutritious than its wild counterparts—changes attributed to human intervention and centuries of selective breeding. And the issue of ‘man-made’ modern fruit sometimes becomes an argument for limiting its consumption and eating low-sugar fruits instead, like avocados and tomatoes.

I’ll be writing about the wild/cultivated fruit issue in a later post. In the meantime, I find it interesting that avocados—one of the most popular fat sources on a raw food diet, and the staple of many low-sugar raw cuisines—have managed to dodge criticism about their humongous size. I guess it’s hard to picture avocados being anything other than the plump, fleshy fruits we see in common cultivars like the Hass. But what most people don’t realize (even fruit-and-vegetable-savvy raw foodists) is that commercial avocados are a far cry from what they were originally. In fact, without deliberate cultivation by humans, avocados are small, fibrous, large-pitted, and yield only a tiny layer of that creamy green flesh we all know and love. It’d easily take ten wild avocados to get the equivalent flesh of one Hass, if not more.

That isn’t to say we should avoid avocados or that they’re bad for you—certainly not! But for folks interested in eating foods that are close to their natural state, it’s helpful to understand that these so-called “alligator pears” have been bred specifically for their size, fat content, and copious edible flesh. They aren’t quite so luxuriant in the wild.

Curious what these uncultivated avos look like? Check out the pictures below, and click ‘em for a larger view.

(Images are courtesy for avocadosource.com)


 

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36 responses

29 01 2010
Laura-Jane

Wow, I had no idea that they were so cute and small and non-avocadoey in the wild! Thanks for enlightening me to the truth about avocados. Those GMO people do amazing things. Of course, I prefer my foods natural and GMO-free, but I do love a good plump hass. :)

6 08 2011
Grok VVIX (10,009th) (@CastleGrok)

Selectively bred and GMO are quite different, so don’t get too wound up about them :)

28 04 2010
Bláán Aweigh

Fascinating! Who would have thought that the avocados to which everybody’s accustomed are monsters?! I would love to see this information disseminated.

Thank you : )

11 05 2010
Taylor Snipes

Epic, I learned something new today. Nice article =)
Taylor

9 07 2010
Marc

Very neat!
What about “florida avocados”?
My friend has a nice avocado tree…they are not “bred”. But they are ahuge with a huge pit and lots of “meat”. The meat is much more watery then the hass variety.

Marc

12 07 2010
Milen

This info was very interesting indeed. I must not agree though that the avocado nowadays is GMO so to fit in our well known sizes. Yes, there are several interventions of people over the plants, fruits and veggies, but not all of them are touching directly the gens of the cultures. For example in our home country Bulgaria we have a tradition to attach pear tree to an apple tree etc, which at the end in a grown phase gives apples and pears. This is not a GMO but just a symbiosis of two trees that can live together.

The evil GMO we know and we are all aware these days was introduced as a good intervention to help feed the planet etc. however this was really a nasty game of someones to fit up their pockets with money. Just as an example you can get the tomatoes from USA that can be grown up only one year after what you MUST buy the seeds again from the same farms and manufactures if you want to have it the next year. They say it happened accidentally however I do not believe that such a precise genetically modification allowed a mistake and so far nobody is fixing it ;)

In a good word of the avocado, it is one of the fruits that is less touched from the point of fertilizers etc. This would simply mean that even if you cannot afford to buy it from the organic stores across the countries, it will in no way harm your health but only bring you the joy, happiness and tons of useful fats. The problem of buying it not organic (not everyone can afford it so far) is that acting like this we are not supporting organic farms and producers that do care about the planet and humans health (here we must exclude those gold seekers that are producing organic only to have it well sold etc.)

12 09 2010
David I

Okay, why do people see that a fruit doesn’t look like its ancestors and immediately scream “Omigod, GMO!”

Plant breeding has been going on since the dawn of agriculture. Look at the vast array of potatoes. Look at tomatoes–they were bred from an ancestor that actually made people sick.

GMO is very recent. Selective breeding in ancient. Please, folks, don’t confuse the two.

Every form of produce that we consume has been selectively bred over a few thousand years, and very few of them look all that much like their ancestors. In fact, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and cabbage all come from a single ancestor plant.

Great Danes and poodles don’t look much like their ancestors either, but that’s breeding, not the insertion of foreign genes.

7 02 2011
Another Halocene Human

You took the words out of my mouth. GMO is a (very) recent innovation and is mostly used to enhance pesticide or (more likely, herbicide resistance). But manipulation via crossbreeding (and grafting) has been going on since the dawn of agriculture (hell, it IS the dawn of agriculture, duh) to enhance the quality of the food, the pest resistance, and the yield.

If you are messing up your body with corn oil and HFCS, my money says it’s the Omega 6′s and the fructose, not some magic GMO gene. GMO corn takes less herbicide and hence less residue on the finished product! Why are we hallucinating zebras in the middle of a wild mustang stampede?

Correlation is not causation and post hoc does not mean propter hoc.

26 07 2011
John David Ward

I have to point this out: Selective breeding IS genetic modification. That’s sort of what selective breeding means. It’s oldest known method of genetic modification.

I think you’re thinking of transgenics. Yes, that’s another, more recent method of GM. Modern day avocados have been genetically modified. They were just modified in the old-fashioned way, outside of a lab.

A great deal of the food we eat is GMO. We just don’t describe it this way normally, but when talking to the paleo-diet people, selective breeding might seem almost as bad as transgenics.

They’re not wrong. It’s just a different way of looking at it.

10 02 2011
tasteofbeirut

I spent a wonderful weekend at a bed & breakfast in Tyre, Lebanon which had a huge orchard with some wild avocado trees. I was offered a few avocados from that tree and yes, they were smaller than the haas but their flavor was unmatched. I was told that the avocado (wild) has a lot of other benefits, skin, pit etc.. was wondering if anyone had any info on that.

5 08 2011
Jennifer

Except for the Mexican varieties, the skin, leaves, and seed can be harmful and fatal to animals and humans. There is some research, but not too much, explaining in detail.

31 05 2011
Wild and Ancient Fruit: Is it Really Small, Bitter, and Low in Sugar? « Raw Food SOS: Troubleshooting on the Raw Food Diet

[...] The ratio of pulp vs. inedible stuff. Wild fruits tend to have thicker peels and bigger seeds, strings, rinds, cores, and other gnarly bits relative to the amount of edible flesh they yield. Even when sugar composition doesn’t differ dramatically between the edible parts of wild versus cultivated species, a single wild fruit will generally provide a lot less edible material than a cultivated fruit of the same size. This is one area where humans have definitely left our signature in fruit breeding: We like our cultivated fruits to be seedless (or at least low in ‘em), easy to bite into, easy to peel, and abundant in edible flesh. Due to their extra roughage (and sometimes-scary exteriors), wild fruits can be more of a challenge to eat. (This doesn’t just apply to sweet fruits, either: See my earlier post on wild avocados.) [...]

31 05 2011
Michael

Denise,

From my research I think the same could be said of the modern coconut versus the ancient coconut.

21 04 2012
Archie

Almost nothing we eat today are original and unadulterated by selective breeding and almost nothing in its original form is capable of feeding 7 billion people. When mankind built the first city 15 thousand years ago or so, they probably had been cultivating and selectively breeding crops and animals for centuries before that.

8 10 2012
brenda
19 10 2012
Wild and Ancient Fruit: Is it Really Small, Bitter, and Low in Sugar? « Durianrider's Blog

[...] The ratio of pulp vs. inedible stuff. Wild fruits tend to have thicker peels and bigger seeds, strings, rinds, cores, and other gnarly bits relative to the amount of edible flesh they yield. Even when sugar composition doesn’t differ dramatically between the edible parts of wild versus cultivated species, a single wild fruit will generally provide a lot less edible material than a cultivated fruit of the same size. This is one area where humans have definitely left our signature in fruit breeding: We like our cultivated fruits to be seedless (or at least low in ‘em), easy to bite into, easy to peel, and abundant in edible flesh. Due to their extra roughage (and sometimes-scary exteriors), wild fruits can be more of a challenge to eat. (This doesn’t just apply to sweet fruits, either: See my earlier post on wild avocados.) [...]

4 12 2012
Serendipity Garner

This article stuns me. I was in rural Kenya in 2000 and eating avocados the size of small footballs by the side of the road; loads of street sellers salting them and selling slices. Plenty of flesh; enormous fruits… I don’t mean to be rude but did you miss something or am I mistaken? I don’t think so as I brought one back through customs to enjoy back in England. Delicious.

14 12 2012
Schi Sandra

Are you racist? You somehow asume that people in Kenya aren’t able to do selective breeding.. “It all began in Africa”

7 02 2013
Schi Sandra

(I realize I should have replied in a different way, so I reply again)

you wrote; “did you miss something or am I mistaken?”

Yes, it seems that you are mistaking the avocados in Kenya with wild avocados. They were selling cultivated/selective bred avocados in Kenya. Not wild avocados.

(I tried to imagine why you thought they were wild, and my imagination went wild too, haha, so that’s why I thought it was kinda racist to think that Kenya is full of wild things and that you mistakingly thought that Kenyans are not able to cultivate avocados)

24 10 2013
Krista

Thank you! I can’t believe this has to be explained.

29 01 2013
My Name

schi sandra, your entire response was just stupid. i hate when people leave stupid comments like yours.

7 02 2013
Schi Sandra

It was less stupid than the post I replied to.. Are you able to point out what exactly you claim to be stupid, or shall I just asume that it is empty lies from you? Do you believe that selective breeding only exist outside Kenya? Do you believe that “It all began in Africa” is not true? Where do you believe selective breeding started?

anyway, I don’t mind that you like to spread hate, I know it helps your ego in some odd way.. I’m not into “ego competition”, so I’m not going to throw more hate back on you, sorry.. I know I’m “supose to”, but I won’t.. Keep it objective..

7 02 2013
Schi Sandra

(damn, I’m being “too much” here, replying to myself now, hehe) ..I just like to say that “It all began in Africa) was a bit cryptic and/or misleading thing to add.. The quote just popped into my head, thinking that it all began in Africa, then selective breeding probably also has it’s origins in Africa. It didn’t exactly happen in that order, so it’s a bit misleading of me to use that quote..

24 10 2013
K

Thank you!

29 01 2013
My Name

btw…avocados came from south america. hence the name.
A foolish man speaks before he thinks, a wise man thinks before he speaks…

7 02 2013
Schi Sandra

So are you trying to claim that avocadoes doesn’t exist in Kenya, or that people in Kenya are not able to do selective breeding of avocadoes? Do you believe that avocadoes in Kenya are 100% natural, not put there by humans and not breeded in any way?

7 02 2013
Schi Sandra

Some people claim that avocados (I guess that’s the correct spelling, not “avocadoes” like I wrote in my other post, hehe) doesn’t exist in the wild, or rather; the wild avodado is so far from the cultivated avocado that it’s definetly not wild avocados “the size of footballs” aparently existing in Kenya..

22 10 2013
C

Hi, do you have a split personality? Because, you seem to go back and forth between extremely rude to almost helpful. Not everyone knows the same things that you do. Would you like to be talked down to in about something you are not knowledgeable in the same manner you seem to thrive on doing to others? There is NO Such thing as a stupid question, but there ARE stupid answers.

6 02 2013
Denise Minger – “Debunked” Wild Fruits Blog

[...] post, in which my own photographs are used/cited. I have found a few of similar posts of hers (i.e. Wild Avocadoes), that while neatly appearing technical, lack the academic substrates. In this case, her subject [...]

15 02 2013
Evolutionary Anachronisms | Shit You Didn't Know About Biology

[...] that despite our love of the avocado (specifically, domesticated cultivars with lots of flesh; wild avocado fruits have a thinner layer of green deliciousness surrounding that pit), it is not “meant” [...]

25 02 2013
Evolutionary Anachronisms | Stuff You Didn't Know About Biology (SFW Version)

[...] that despite our love of the avocado (specifically, domesticated cultivars with lots of flesh; wild avocado fruits have a thinner layer of green deliciousness surrounding that pit), it is not “meant” [...]

15 05 2013
shira dial

wow who knew thanks for sharing those photos I have uncultivated avocados I didn’t realize that the year old so little meat.

11 06 2013
Mr. Scade

The size of avocados can vary depending on the amount of water they get. My family has planted several avocado trees, the type you buy in the public markets, fruits the size of a man´s hand. But the farm is located in a place that get little to nothing in terms of rainwater, and as such the fruit yield is quite poor, by some standards. The fruits are small, with enormous seeds, and little meat – yet the meat’s flavour is stronger than most. Although, last year the meat-seed ratio was bigger, if only for the increase in rainwater. This means that rainwater affects the fruit, more than anything. Most likely the plant’s genetic factors, paired with better conditions. I am rambling.

My other note is that I’ve been to the Veraguas mountains in Panama, where I met a lovely old woman who lived her life hunting in the mountains. She told me a tale of her father telling her never to eat avocados found in the wild, for they were poisonous. I wonder the veracity of this.

Nice article, though.

3 07 2013
Stevo

my 5 trees in miami, fl. give us huge fat avocados with lots of flesh. some are the size of large grapefruit or eggplant. we do nothing to the trees. no fertilizer, no trimming, nothing. so i can’t fully buy into this post.

24 10 2013
Krista

You don’t understand what the post is saying. Those 5 trees you have, though you may not fertilize them etc, are still the descendants of generation upon generation of selectively bred avocado plants. It’s not about how you maintain them it’s about the lineage of the plants. Selective breeding is not bad but they aren’t wild plants.

30 01 2014
poetrydude66

People should distinguish plant selection from genetic modification (GMO). Plant selection simply takes some stable genetic organism and breeds it, to get more of whatever attribute you want to be dominant. GMO inserts or removes new genes into the plant, potentially creating unpredictable side effects on many aspects of the plant and its nutrition.

I understand why people want to move slowly on GMO, but I would like to point out that mankind has managed to mess up the food chain thoroughly, and never needed one genetic insertion or removal to do it. We feed grains to chickens, grains to cows, grains to pigs, and we even farm salmon and feed them – yes – grains. There is so much omega-6 fatty acid in the human food chain now that even if you want to eat organic raised animals you probably are not eating them.

I defy anyone to audit every chicken farmer within 100 miles of where you live and find a single one where the chickens eat a truly natural diet of insects and sprouting seeds and greens. The ugly secret of “organic” bred animals is that the farmer lets the chickens roam out in a field, but then dumps huge piles of grain for them to ingest. So yes they get insects, but 50% of their caloric intake is all grains. That much grain means these “organic” animals are nothing more than walking omega-6 storehouses, being marketed to consumers as something they are not.

The point of my diversion here is that I doubt GMO modifications that change the size of a plant are anywhere near as harmful as the mainstream farming practices that are distorting nutrient composition of virtually everything we eat.

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