The Avocado, Mexico's Jewel for the World
Mexico and its gastronomy have given the world many ingredients, but undoubtedly one of the flavors that have transcended borders is the very Mexican avocado.
Today we know that this fruit, and yes, you read that right, the avocado is a fruit, was considered by the Aztecs as a divine plant that was consecrated to the Gods, and to which aphrodisiac powers were attributed. Therefore, it was forbidden to consume its fruits during religious celebrations in order to keep the proper chastity.
Its flavor, texture, nutritional properties, and culinary adaptability make it unique. And it is for all these qualities that Mexican avocado has been able to open frontiers and conquer palates. Where does the avocado come from, where does its strength come from, and what is the secret of today's "green gold"? These are some of the great strengths of the avocado, which position Mexico as the world's leading producer.
How to know if an avocado is ready?
Squeeze your forehead lightly. This is an example of how an avocado should not feel when you squeeze it. It means the avocado is too hard and not ripe.
Press lightly on your cheek. If your avocado has the same softness, don't buy it. The avocado is overripe and possibly rotten.
Press lightly on your nose. This is how the ideal avocado should feel when you press it with your finger. Choose an avocado that sinks a little but is not too soft.
Peel off the stem attached to the avocado. If the bottom of the stem is brown, don't buy it. Be careful because it will have brown spots inside.
Find an avocado that has the consistency and firmness of your nose and has a nice green spot on the bottom of the stem. Perfect you have found the perfect avocado.
How does the avocado reach the United States?
The land route is the predominant way of transporting Mexican avocados to the United States. Logistics that little by little have improved and that today contribute to the good functioning of a distribution and delivery system that is very well structured. The arrival of the avocado to the United States has managed to perfect its route in a surprising way, so much so that the product can arrive in Texas in 48 hours, and in optimal conditions. After it is harvested, selected, and packed on Monday morning, the following day it is placed in trailers that on Wednesday are already delivering it to supermarkets to be put on sale on the shelves.
It is estimated that U.S. per capita consumption of fresh avocados is 3.54 kilograms, avocados grown in California are up to 30% more expensive than those from Mexico, which is why in the United States 80% of this fruit comes from Mexico, the average price for the final consumer is $ 1.43 per avocado. The largest producers of the fruit in Mexico are 53 municipalities in Michoacán and there is also a whole distribution chain in charge of getting the product to the neighboring country to the north.
More than 52% of what is produced in Mexico is exported, avocado is the third most exported product, after beer and tequila, avocado production involves about 300 thousand direct and indirect jobs. In 2020 the value of avocado production in Mexico reached 49,369 million pesos, with Michoacán being the main producer with 39,623 million pesos. The avocado crop has been growing for more than 10 years with a growth trend in its production. In 2020, an average annual growth rate of 7.4% was recorded.
Where in Mexico do they grow avocado?
Michoacán, Jalisco, and the State of Mexico are the main producers of this crop; however, Michoacán is the main exporter of Mexican avocado and the largest producer worldwide, 85% of its production is destined for the U.S. market where Michoacán avocado is the preferred one, but it has competition from countries such as Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Central America. In terms of avocado production, the state of Michoacán accounts for 75% of production, followed by Jalisco with 10% and the State of Mexico with 5%, which means that almost 8 out of every 10 fruits are grown in Michoacán.
The harvested area of avocado in Mexico is 224,422 hectares, and an adult avocado tree produces between 80 and 100 kilograms of fruit per year. Mexico produced 34% of all the avocados available on the planet in 2018, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Uses of avocado
Avocado pulp is used for infusion, relieves migraine pain, cures bleeding gums, and improves gallbladder function. It also helps regulate a woman's menstrual cycle, helps to break up kidney stones, and helps control colds.
Avocado seeds contain fiber and amino acids that help prevent heart disease, contain more soluble fiber than any other food, fight stomach ailments, and when infused help control asthma.
Avocado oil prevents the appearance of wrinkles, fights dandruff and gives shine to hair, prevents and reduces varicose veins, naturally moisturizes very dry skin, helps strengthen nails, improves healing, reduces age spots on the skin, prevents the development of acne, and reduces bad cholesterol in the body.
The avocado leaf is used for infusion, relieves migraine pain, cures bleeding gums, improves gallbladder function, helps regulate a woman's menstrual cycle, breaks up kidney stones, and helps control colds.
Avocado leaves and bark: 5-15 grams per liter of water. Long-term treatments should not be done due to their toxicity.
Avocado seeds: 5 grams per liter. Long-term treatments should not be done due to their toxicity.
Avocado pulp: Since it is a food, the desired quantities can be taken.
Avocado is rich in proteins, lipids, and vitamins (particularly A), as well as phosphorus, and calcium. In addition to fresh fruits, frozen, dehydrated pulp and oil extracts are used in the cosmetic industry. The leaves, seeds, and bark are used as a medicinal remedy and in the production of dyes. The trees are part of the coffee and cocoa orchards and the backyards of the houses.
History of the avocado
The avocado (Persea americana Mill.) belongs to the botanical family Lauraceae, and the genus has approximately 190 species, distributed mainly in the neotropics, from the southern United States to Chile. The oldest fossil records of the ancestors of this plant were found in the area currently occupied by the Sierra Nevada in California, where at the end of the Cenozoic era (approximately 50 million years ago), there was a tropical climate.
However, during the last glaciation (between 18 and 24 thousand years ago), this plant moved south, where the climate was suitable for its development. It was in the Tehuacán Valley, in the Balsas region, where this plant established itself, diversified, and probably began to be domesticated, since the oldest evidence of its consumption was found in a cave in Coxcatlán, with a date between 8,000 and 7,000 years ago.
The avocado was a very important plant for the Mesoamerican peoples, not only as a source of food but also for medicinal purposes and as part of their cosmovision. When the Spaniards arrived in America, the avocado and its races already had names in the different languages of the peoples that were distributed in the current Mexican territory. Fray Diego de Landa, in his book Relación de las cosas de Yucatán of 1560, describes the avocado as follows:
...a very large and fresh tree which the indigenous people call on; it bears a fruit like large squash with great softness that seems to taste buttery and is lardy, and is very high maintenance and substance. It has a large shell and delicate rind and is eaten sliced like melon and with salt.
This plant was also mentioned in the General History of the Things of New Spain, written by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, where three types of avocado are mentioned: "aoacatl", "tlacacolaocatl" and "quilaoacatl".
Avocado consumption worldwide began to increase at the end of the last century. Up to 1963, 47 varieties were registered in Mexico, all of them with regional names. However, since 1964, the hybrid variety called "Hass" began to replace the native varieties. This has meant that, in a period of a few years, the genetic diversity of avocados has begun to diminish. Mexico became the main producer of the now called "green gold", with the state of Michoacán leading the production list, accompanied by the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, State of Mexico, Guerrero, and Morelos.
Where does the word "avocado" come from?
The word avocado comes from the Nahuatl ahuacatl, which means "testicles of the tree". The oldest vestiges of the avocado go back to a cave in Coxcatlán, located in the region of Tehuacán, Puebla, and date from 8,000 a.C. The avocado tree can reach 20 meters in height, but it is generally kept at less than five meters. Its scientific name is Persea americana and there are more than 90 species on the continent, distributed from central Mexico to Central America.
There are three avocado breeds: Mexicana, auácatl (P.a. var drymioflia); Guatemalan, Quilauácatl (P.a. guatemalensis var.), and Antillean tlacozalauácatl (P.a. American var.), which give rise to a large number of hybrids, among the best known are the Fort, Hass, Bacon, Pinkerton, Gwen, and Reed.