Avocados originally came from central Mexico and the word comes from Nahuáti, which was the language spoken by the Aztecs. The word they used was ahuácati which means testicle! Here they are known as aguacate, although in some parts of Spanish speaking Latin America they are known as palta. Also they are not called avocados all over the world, some places know them as alligator pears or butter pears. The word abogado here means lawyer, and when I first started speaking Spanish I kept saying "I really fancy a lawyer tonight, instead of I fancy an avocado".
I knew they were widely available in the Dominican Republic but I had no idea that the DR is actually the 3rd biggest producer of avocados in the world, only Mexico and Chile produce more. The DR has climbed up the rankings since 2008 when it was in 7th place.
Avocados grow easily from seed. You just take out the big pip in the middle, and using toothpicks, balance it over some water. Once the roots have grown and a shoot come out of the top, you can then plant it outside. Apparently it takes 4-6 years to produce fruit. Personally I think it might take a lot longer, as I bought an actual tree which I had for 4 years and no sign of any fruit.
The avocado should not be allowed to ripen on the tree but should be picked when it is still firm. Once picked, it can be left to ripen naturally, but will ripen faster if you put it in a brown paper bag, or next to other fruit when apparently some sort of ethylene gas exchange takes place. In some countries they will actually treat the avocado with ethylene to speed up the ripening process. They are picked with a special avocado picker, which looks a bit like a lacrosse stick. Thanks to my friend Grace, also married to a Dominican, for sharing this picture of her daughter, and mother in law showing the avocado picker.
Avocados are very good for you. It is true that they have a lot of calories, around 300, but apparently, although they are high in fat, it is good fat as opposed to bad fat. They have more potassium than bananas, more protein than cows milk or a cooked steak, have the highest fibre content of any fruit, and are also high in vitamins B,E and K. They have been proven to lower blood cholesterol and are even being researched as a possible cancer cure.
The most famous avocado recipe is probably guacamole, the famous Mexican dip made with avocados, coriander, tomatoes and onions. In the Dominican Republic they are usually served in wedges, with the main meal, sprinkled with salt and sometimes lime. They are also served as a salad. I love half an avocado with its hole in the middle filled with juicy prawns and prawn cocktails sauce, or simply filled with vinaigrette.
I buy my avocados from the lady in this picture, who comes around most days with them in the washing up bowl on her head. They are 10 pesos each, around 15 pence or 35 cents, or two for 25 pesos. If you buy the two for 25 they are bigger.
So that is letter A. Something I love, something truly Dominican, something I would really miss eating if I did not live here. I could do with a few more recipes for them though, so if you have any delicious ways of eating avocados please let me know.