With so many sweet and luscious fruits and berries in the world to choose from, you may be wondering why everyone from your favorite barista to your least favorite grandma is so obsessed with avocados. And yes, the avocado resides alongside the tomato in that hazy vegetable-or-fruit space which confuses most people, including the United States Department of Agriculture which lists it as a vegetable when, in fact, it is a fruit. Botanical name: Persea Americana, place of origin: Puebla, Mexico, formerly known as: “ahuacate,” the Aztec work for testicle. It may be hard to understand why anyone would claim to be obsessed with a testicle-shaped quasi-fruit, but for many people this obsession stems from a conglomeration of several influences.
A modern blend comprised of the avocado’s natural health benefits, the contemporary insatiable thirst for trends, and skillful product marketing has excited the Avocado craze sweeping the nation and beyond. Also, keep in mind that while the avocado may be new to many, it is not exactly new to the world. The forest-green fruit has long since been a household staple in many Central/South American and Mediterranean locales and has been stateside in the form of the often-underappreciated dip, guacamole.
Nevertheless, the recent ascent of the avocado as America’s “it” fruit has taken form in several different – somewhat-bewildering – shapes. There is avocado ice cream, smoothies, chips, cooking oil, and someplace-somewhere near you, there is a trendy brunch spot serving the almost universal staple of avocado toast.
In his New Yorker article, Nathan Heller delves into the roots of the avocado surgent in the Big Apple; likening the New Yorker’s predilection for expensive avocado toast to the “Gothic Masochism that makes New Yorkers pay three-quarters of their income for hutch-like apartments and relish walks of trash-walled streets”. Heller strikes at one heart of the avocado craze when he acknowledges that Avocado toast was first introduced to New York’s mainstream, “sophisticated” crowd by “well-traveled, fashion-adjacent people” and subsequently became known as “a fashion-friendly food: small, nourishing, refined, easy to share, customizable”. According to Heller, “avo-toast” now serves as a universal snack, one that can be recognized everywhere and nibbled on in a universally familiar way.
Rachel Premack also touches on this universality in her Forbes article addressing the rising popularity of the avocado in Asian locales. In September of 2017, South Korea alone imported $2.4 million worth of avocados, and China’s avocado imports are growing at about 250% every year. Premark’s reasoning behind the craze simmers down to “Avocados are healthy, look pretty on Instagram, and hint at opulence”. In this way, the avocado appears to serve as a calling card denoting a cosmopolitan, palatial taste.
While it’s true that metropolitan taste doesn’t always account for good taste; and it’s certainly true that avocados aren’t as sweet as other fruits and berries, they are jampacked with several vitamins and minerals which are good for your body. According to OrganicFacts.net, eating avocados helps protect from heart disease and diabetes, enhances the absorption of nutrients in the body, contributes to eye health, and helps to maintain blood sugar levels. They contain minerals such as Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and others; vitamins such as C, B6, B-12, A, D, K, E, thiamin, riboflavin, and Niacin; and organic compounds like Phytosterols and Carotenoids. In addition, the avocado is one of the few fruits with a high monounsaturated-fat content – one medium sized Hass avocado contains almost 22.5 grams of fat. This makes the avocado popular among vegans and vegetarians who would like to up their calorie or protein intake without deviating from their dietary restrictions. Due to these benefits, the avocado has become something of a superfood for many people. Not only both nutritious and filling, its every-day versatility – ranging from morning spread to post-workout smoothie – has made the avocado favorable for many different lifestyles and households. However, it is not as though the avocado just recently became a healthy snack, as stated above, it has been around for quite some time; so why the new rise in popularity?
Apparently, the popularity of the fruit – particularly in America – can be partly attributed to the smooth marketing skills of a group of California farmers. In his NPR article, Howard Yoon takes a look at the avocado’s rise in marketability. Yoon links the current popularity of avocados to a 1915 meeting between California farmers “looking to market the fruit in the U.S.”. The farmers changed the name from ahuacate, which they thought would be too hard for Americans to pronounce, to avocado, and subsequently dubbed themselves the California Avocado Association. Now, California “accounts for nearly 90 percent of all avocados grown in the United States,” a whopping percentage considering they just recently entered the avocado market compared to other suppliers. Other longstanding and top avocado producers include Mexico, which produces 1.52 million metric tons annually and the Dominican Republic, which produces 42000 metric tons annually.
For avocados, the supply and the demand go well together. So, all you avocado romantics feel free to continue waxing poetic about your favorite green fruit, and you hip, healthy potential avo-lovers, feel free to give avocados a try. Rest assured, there will be plenty of avocado to go around.
Header Image: CC Image courtesy of tookapic via pixabay