Avocados are a super food that are both tasty and carry great health benefits.
In the US avocados are widely available in the southern states as the climate is perfect to grow them, not too far from Mexico where they can grow indigenously like they do across South America.
However, if you are from somewhere a little closer to northern America, or you live in Europe or another colder country or continent, avocados can be harder to come by.
As avocados are a stone fruit they can take a while to ‘ripen’, this means waiting, after harvest, for the fruit’s flesh to become softer and creamier.
The issue is that avocados can take a while to ripen after harvest, and in non-ideal growing conditions this can take even longer.
Moreover, the golden window of a perfectly ripened avocado is pretty small and if you wait too long you can easily miss this window and end up with an avocado that is watery and over ripe.
Sometimes nothing is worse than waiting for fruit to ripen, especially if you want to use it right now, or if you don’t have the time or patience to naturally let the fruit ripen.
We have explained the mechanics of ripening avocados naturally, as well as some interesting and surprising ways in which you can manually ripen an avocado at home.
How Does Fruit Become Ripe?
If we first understand the botanical mechanism that causes ripening, then we can understand how ripening works itself and why some non conventional methods of ripening at home will work.
Fruit, once harvested, releases something called ethylene gas, which is a hydrocarbon style gas, it is invisible and has no scent. Ethylene gas is a plant hormone that helps regulate the plant’s growth and maturity, including the speed these functions happen.
Botanists have discovered that different plants have different levels of ethylene gas present in them, bananas for example are full of ethylene gas so if you store your fruit near some loose bananas it will ripen quicker.
Botanists have also found that you can contain ethylene gas within certain materials to speed up this process.
How To Tell If An Avocado Is Ripe
The easiest way to judge the ripeness of an avocado is through its texture. Gently press your thumb or forefinger onto the thinnest part of the avocado, near the pedicel or stalk part.
The resistance you want is enough to leave a small indentation where you have gently pressed, you want it to be dense enough to hold the shape you have pressed into it, this means the avocado is at the perfect texture to be mashed into guacamole or into avocado on toast.
Another obvious way, that only really works at the start of the ripening process, is to use your eyes. Avocados are green when they aren’t ripe, so keep an eye out for these in the supermarket.
The blacker the avocado, the more ripe it will be, but once the avocado is no longer green there can be large variations of ripeness when black.
How To Ripen Avocados In A Paper Bag
As mentioned, ethylene gas can be contained in certain materials and a paper bag is one of those materials.
If you simply keep your avocados in a paper bag, not a plastic one, then the ethylene gas will be automatically contained in the paper bag environment and will lead to your avocados ripening faster.
On the other hand, if you want an even more effective ripening period you can keep your avocados in a paper bag with other fruits that also have a high ethylene gas content. Some fruits include apples, bananas, melons, pears and peaches to name a few.
If you throw your avocados in a bag with any of these fruits they will automatically ripen faster than they would on their own, and the ethylene gas is also contained within the bag doubling the speed of ripening.
You could even achieve this with vegetables which also produce ethylene gas.
If you want to take this even further then you can place around 2 inches of flour in the bottom of the paper bag and rest your fruit on top.
The flour will naturally draw out the moisture present in the avocado which will ripen it while also keeping the ethylene gas trapped within the bag.
This will still take a day or two for your fruit to become ripe, but will essentially half the time you would have to wait for the avocado to naturally become ripe.
How To Ripen Avocados In The Microwave
This sounds like some ridiculous ‘life hack’, but it actually works and science proves it. As we have outlined, when ethylene gas is trapped in a material it will cause the gas to be proximally closer to the flesh of the fruit and ripen it further.
Heat will also manipulate the flesh of the avocado to be softer.
Follow these steps to ripen your avocado in the microwave:
- Halve the avocado and remove the pit
- Separately wrap each half of the avocado in cling film to trap the ethylene gas.
- Cook the avocado in 30 second intervals on medium to high voltage, until your desired texture is achieved.
- Once cool, peel the skin
- Place in the refrigerator to regain some of the original texture and also to cool the avocado. Leave for around 5 minutes before use.
With this method, prepare to sacrifice some taste and texture due to the heat of the microwave, but you will have much softer flesh.
You are essentially speeding up what is days worth of ripening so don’t expect a quality avocado after this but, it will be edible and soft. Also be prepared for a bit of a smell caused by the what also, but the method still works.
While it does work, it’s a last resort if you really can’t plan ahead to ripen an avocado. The same results can be achieved in an oven also, with tin foil, although expect to sacrifice the same amount of taste and texture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Avocados Healthy?
Avocados are a source of vitamins C, E, K, and B6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and potassium. They also provide lutein, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Avocados are also a really healthy source of fats, we all need fats in order to have a balanced diet so why not get your fats from the monounsaturated fat of an avocado
Are Avocados Fattening?
Well, yes, but only as much as anything else. Avocados contain monounsaturated fat which is deemed ‘heart healthy’. So, the source of fats in avocados is actually a really healthy way to consume fats, which we all need as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
As long as you are not eating an absurd amount of avocados in one sitting then there’s no real need to worry about fats or calories more than you would any other fruit or vegetable.
Avocado actually encourages weight loss to an extent as the natural source of fats will make you feel full and satisfied when in reality you haven’t consumed the usual amount of calories or fat you would usually need to feel that ‘full’ or satisfied.
Are Avocados Expensive?
Both yes and no. Avocado has become one of the most trendiest foods and became the poster child of millennial healthy eating. So, the demand for avocados has increased wildly in the west over the past few years.
In recent years, some reports suggest that avocado prices have increased by 129%. The average price of a Hass avocado in the US doubled in one year to $2.10 at one point in 2019.
Beyond pricing, the potential damage that the US Avocado trade and agriculture has caused on the environment and water supply in recent years is unimaginable.
This is pretty ironic considering that in Mexico and parts of South America, where avocados grow indigenously, the price of an avocado is extremely low and is considered a pretty basic working class food that is consumed by blue collar workers and poor families for its fatty, healthy and cheap properties.
Whereas in the US the avocado has become the fruit of instagram and is sold on toast for triple the price it would cost at a market in South America.