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Technically a tropical fruit, avocados thrive in the warm climates of California, Mexico and Florida. They are harvested by hand, though pickers require the aid of a long pole, as the trees can grow up to 80 feet tall. In California, where the peak season for avocados is the summer, the dark green, nubby-skinned Hass variety makes up about 95% of the crop and is preferred for its nutty flavor and rich, buttery texture.
Peak Season: February to September
How to select: Hold in the palm of your hand and squeeze – it should yield to gentle pressure. Skin should be unblemished, but color is not an indicator of ripeness.
Price range: $0.75 to $2 each
Keep it fresh: Store ripe avocados on the counter if you plan to eat them within one day. To speed up ripening, place in a brown paper bag with an apple or a banana; to slow ripening, or make a ripe avocado last longer, store in the refrigerator.
Pairs well with: Eggs, ricotta, goat cheese, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, mango, black beans, grains, radishes
Try this: Add to an omelette with spinach and goat cheese. Top grilled fish with avocado, mango, tomato and radish salsa, plus cilantro and lime.
Nutrition highlights: Much of the healthy fat in avocados comes from phytosterols, anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown to fight arthritis. The fat in avocados also helps the body absorb greater percentages of carotenoids found in other foods, such as carrots and spinach.