Avocados: How to choose, store and prepare

There are many reasons to love living in California, but ranking high among them are the avocados. Sure, you can find avocados everywhere these days. But only here can you find any variety.

For the most part, when you’re talking about commercial avocados, you’re talking about Hass. And truth be told, it really is about as good as anything out there. But sometimes you want to try something a little different.

In Southern California farmers markets right now, you can also find Fuertes, Bacons, Zutanos and Pinkertons. The first three are Mexican avocados, which are usually harvested from January until May. They tend to be smooth-skinned and a little lighter green; they also usually are lower in fat. Hass and Pinkerton have a Guatemalan heritage. They are usually rounder in shape, with a pebbly skin that’s darker in color; especially right now, at the peak harvest, they are lusciously high in fat.

How to choose: Really ripe avocados will give when they are squeezed gently. Use your palm, not your fingers. Usually, you’re better off buying avocados that are quite firm, even hard, and ripening them at home. It’ll take only a couple of days, and it will keep you from getting stuck with fruit that’s been badly bruised by overenthusiastic shoppers.

How to store: Keep avocados at room temperature until they are fully ripe. Once they’ve been cut open, they need to be consumed quickly -- the flesh blackens within hours when exposed to air (this is ugly but harmless).

How to prepare: If you’ve got really good avocados, even guacamole is too complicated. Instead, peel and pit the avocado and crush it onto warm toast. Sprinkle with salt and season with a good grinding of black pepper.