Curious Yet Tasty Avocado Experiment

The Kitchen / Laboratory

GUESTS: David Traylor
              Men #1 to #6, Woman #1, Chefs #1 & #2
              Tammie Cook
              Vanessa Parker

[to see the above people and the rest of the wonderful crew that actually makes Good Eats, visit The Crew page]

DAVID: [enters the "kitchen"] Where is he? Has anyone seen him? [the kitchen is empty so he speaks into his headset] Red leader to all teams, has anyone seen AB? Over.
VOICE: [through the headset] Not here.
DAVID: [opens the refrigerator] Do you know where AB is?
THING: [waves as if to answer "no"]
[continues to look off set] AB? Have you seen AB?
MAN #1: [points in opposite direction]
[continues to look around the set] Hey guys. Excuse me. Can I get through, please?
MEN #2 & #3: [move a fake wall out of the way]
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. [opens the cold storage room door] Do you know where ...
WOMAN #1: [stands alone eating a chocolate cake]
[says nothing, closes the door, moves on] Have you seen the boss?
MAN #4: [pauses from washing dishes and shrugs]
Hey guys, you know where AB is?
MEN #5 & #6: [pause from grinding metal and shake their heads "no"]
DAVID: [passes through double doors into the kitchen]
Seen AB?
CHEF #1: [shakes his head "no"]
AB. You seen AB?
CHEF #2: Yeah. Right there.
DAVID: Oh, great. Great, great. [mutters to himself as he eventually hooks up with AB] Um, boss. We're supposed to be shooting now.
AB: [holds an avocado up to a magnifying glass] What am I going to do with this thing?
TAMMIE COOK: I still think the salad's a good idea.
AB: Oh, it's been done to death.
VANESSA PARKER: Why don't we stuff it with crab?
AB: Why crab?
TAMMIE COOK: Why crab?
VANESSA PARKER: We've got a freezer full of it.
AB: No. Nice, but no. Then we'd just be turning this thing into a big edible bowl.
DAVID: I know, guacamole.
TAMMIE COOK: We did that in the dip show.
VANESSA PARKER: We can't do that again?
AB: That's it. I give up. I give up. [rolls the avocado across the table, it rolls into a sink filled with water] Huh. It floats. It floats. Heh, heh. It floats. Eureka! [runs off]
What's with him?
TAMMIE COOK: He's lost it.
VANESSA PARKER: Yep, cracked and fried.
AB: [now at the sink] See, it floats. I mean, don't you get it, kids? Name something that floats.
DAVID: Small rocks.
AB: Well, yes, all those things float. But what I'm thinking of is fat. See, this avocado's 16 to 20 percent fat. Heck, that's not that different than an egg. Do you know what this means? This means that if we can just move beyond our own prejudices, we'll find that the avocado is more than guacamole in the making, it's ...
    Good Eats.

[Good Eats theme plays]

Morro Creek Ranch: Morro Bay, CA - 10:15 am

    The avocado, like sassafras and bay, is a member of the laurel family, and it is a New World plant that comes with many, many names. The Incas called it palta. The Mayans and Guatemala referred to it simply as oh. And Brazilian tribes called it omichon.
    Today, the French call these little guys l'avocat [he prounces it lah-vo-SAH the first time], or l'avocat [la-vo-CAH] depending on how bad your French is. It's a word that means "lawyer". They do this because the Spanish call it by their word for lawyer, or abogado. Now the Spanish call it that because when Cortez and his crew crashed Montezuma II's party back in, I guess it was 1519, they couldn't say the Aztec word for 'avocado', which is ahuacatl—which I can barely say. So they used the word that sounded the closest to them. But here is the beautiful irony: in Aztec, ahuacatl doesn't mean "lawyer", it means "testicle".
    Although there are hundreds of specific varieties of avocado, there are only three major types: West Indian, Guatemalan, and Mexican. And all of the avocados commercially grown in the United States are hybrids of those types. The two most common are the bright green 'fuerte' which is grown mostly in Florida, and "Hass" [rhymes with 'mass'] avocados which are combinations of Mexican and Guatemalan. And they make up about 95% of the California crop. [holds up a sample] Pretty.

AB: [to the avocados in the trees] I'll be back for the rest of you guys.

    If you've ever wondered why avocados are a little on the pricey side, consider this: it takes 13 months for this little bitty berry to become a mature fruit. Now notice I did not use the word "ripe". That's because avocados never ever ripen on the tree. They actually have to be picked before that can happen. Now this is actually a good thing for growers, because it means they can literally store fruit on the trees for up to seven months. And that is why avocados are available year round. [feels an avocado on the tree]

AB: [to the avocados] I'll see you guys in about two weeks.

    Here's another fun avocado fact to know and tell: all "Hass" trees—all the millions of them—share a single mother, a very famous tree that recently died. It was planted as a sapling in the backyard of a Whittier, California postman named Rudolph Hass in 1926. Now as this tree matured, it produced prodigious amounts of a rich, flavorful fruit. It was so much better than all the other avocados in the area that Hass finally got wise and patented the actual variety, in, I think it was in 1935. Now, how do you produce zillions and zillions and zillions of plants from one tree without it changing at all? Well, let's put it this way, those bumpy green guys have a lot in common with another bumpy green guy, Frankenstein's monster.

C & M Nursery: Nipomo, CA - 12:15 pm

    Every kid who's made it through fifth grade science in America has done this experiment. You take an avocado pit, you stick some toothpicks into the side of it. You set it on a glass with a little bit of water just touching the bottom of the seed, and you go away. You come back a few days later, the seed has cracked open and new life I just jutting out from inside the seed. It's a miracle. And if you're an especially geeky kid, you hurry it out, you plant it in the ground, sometimes it grows a tree, sometimes it doesn't. If it does grow a tree, maybe it'll produce fruit. But the fruit will be unpredictable. That's because avocados, like people, [re]produce sexually, so the offspring has characteristics of both parent organisms. Now this is not really a good thing for commercial nurserymen, because in this case, at least, we're trying to reproduce one particular tree with a few improvements, zillions and zillions and zillions of times.
    The answer, of course, grafting. A modern miracle that's, well, not really that modern since the Chinese invented it about 1500 B.C. or something like that. Simply put, you take a plant that has root characteristics you like, you whack it off, you take a little piece of the plant that you want to copy, you shave down the sides, cut a "v" in the original, and just stick that new plant right down in there. You wrap the whole thing up with a fancy rubber band, and the plant will become whatever piece is on top.

The Aztecs used avocado to add fat to their
lean meat selection of turkey, rabbit, dog and slugs.

Morro Creek Ranch

    For the grower, the moment that this [avocado] leaves the tree is really the moment of truth. But for the average American avocado enthusiast, the moment of truth comes when the fruit jumps out of the produce bin and into the grocery cart.
    Now shopping is a little bit tricky. There are some basic rules. All avocados, regardless of ripeness, should be heavy for their size, and relatively blemish-free. There can be a few marks—[points] I mean, that's no big deal—but any tears or soft, mushy places—that's a bruise—you want to avoid that. Ripeness depends upon when you plan on using it. If you are not going to eat them for two, maybe three days, you want to buy avocados that are very, very firm, okay? They will ripen in your kitchen, as long as you do not put them in plastic bags, and you do not put them in the refrigerator. Either of those things would shut down the metabolism of the fruit, and that would be a very very bad thing.
    If you're planning on using them, say, tonight, then you want to go with a softer, not mushy, but a softer specimen. In the case of a Hass avocado, it would also be a darker specimen.
    Now, until you kind of get your avocado fingers, so to speak, and get used to doing this, there is a a little trick. Now if you just kind of flick off this little stumpy piece of the stem like that and look in, if it's green in the little bitty hole, then odds are very very good you have a ripe, or almost ripe avocado. It would be ripe in, oh, I don't know, probably tomorrow. So this is good. This [avocado that he holds and sticks his finger right through the side] ... is bad. I'll probably have to pay for that.
    Oh, I should mention that there is but one fruit that contains more oil than avocados, olives. And just as you can squeeze a lot of oil out of these guys [olives], you can also get oil out of avocados. In fact, avocado oil is one of the best oils for your heart on the face of the earth. And it also has a very high smoke point, over 500 degrees. So, it is perfect for stir-fries and sautéing.

The Kitchen

    How you decide to store your avocados at home will depend greatly upon their stage of ripeness. If, for instance, your avocados have a couple of days to go, you're going to want to leave them out at room temperature, but you don't want to pile them up on each other like this in a bowl. Literally, this little bit of pressure can actually bruise them as they ripen. The answer will be found in your local coffee shop, probably for free. These recyclable paper beverage holders are the perfect places to stash ripening fruit. There. Not pretty, but efficient.
    Now, if the avocados in question are actually ripe, then the refrigerator is a fine idea. Because although the cold in here will prevent unripe avocados from ever reaching their peak condition, it will also slow the spoiling process in fruits that are already good to go.
    Although we have dealt with disassembling avocados on this program before, if my friends who work in emergency rooms are right, it is a lesson worth repeating. Here's how it goes. Lay the avocado down and take a nice big knife and literally roll across the longitude, okay? Notice I'm not doing this in my hand. I'm doing it down on the board. Now if the avocado is ripe, you should be able to easily twist it apart. Put this side [not containing the pit] face down—more on why later. And now, removing the pit is easy. Just pop it with the heel of your blade. [he's about to do it but stops] Now what's wrong with this picture? Hmm? Sharp, terrible, sharp knife. Soft, pink fingers. Don't want to do that. Always protect your hand with a mitt or a towel. There. Now we can safely do this. Just take the knife, kind of pop it, twist to dislodge, and the seed will pop right out. Pinch the blade between your thumb and forefinger, and the pit will pop right off. But don't throw this [pit] away. No. It can give you hours of fun. Just stick three toothpicks into the pit thusly, and place it, with the little button down—that's the root, you know—into a bowl of water. You'll have a tree in no time.
    Now, the best way to get this meat out of here is to use this soup spoon, thusly. Simply dig your way gently around the outside. You can see I'm turning the avocado and the spoon. And the meat will pop right out, leaving you a lovely cup that you can use as a ... Well, nothing, really. Now, straight down on the board and you may cut it up however you like.
    Now we've gone and done it. We've pulled the pin on an edible hand grenade, because at this very moment an enzyme called phenoloxidase is introducing another chemical inside the flesh, a valuable antioxidant in the phenol family, to oxygen. The oxidation of the phenols will result in a very rapid browning. Don't believe me? Take a look. [the camera pans down to brown avocados] Well, it doesn't really happen that fast. But hey, this is a half hour show. Although many strange and unusual home cures have attempted to prevent this, if you really want to stop the browning, you only have two choices.
    Let's say you cranked up your immersion circulator to 40 degrees Celsius—that's about 104 Fahrenheit for you non-metric folks—and let's say you dropped in your avocados and left them for a couple of hours. That much heat wouldn't damage the texture or flavor, but it would shut down the enzymes that cause browning. Of course, if your immersion circulator is in the shop, or you lent it to neighbors, you could always turn to chemical agents.
    Acids like vinegar can literally crack the crankshaft on the enzymatic engine that causes browning. But vinegar doesn't taste too good with avocados. Since they're tropical, it makes sense to use a tropical citrus, either lemon, lime, or any combination thereof can do the trick. The problem, of course, is that avocado's flavor is rather mild and you don't want to overwhelm it. So stick with about half a teaspoon of juice to every avocado's worth of flesh will do the trick. It also helps to keep oxygen out of the party. So take a piece of plastic wrap if you're going to store this for even just a few minutes, and after tossing with acid, push the plastic wrap right down on top of the meat. Less oxygen, less oxidation.

In Zaire, a kind of beer called babine is brewed from avocado leaves.

The Kitchen

Curious Avocado Experiment #1

    Besides salt and pepper to taste, out first experiment will require one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, one clove of garlic, minced, two teaspoons of dried cumin, one tablespoon of chopped cilantro, two ounces of unsalted butter, and six ounces of ripe avocado meat.

1 Tbs. Freshly Squeezed
    Lemon Juice
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
2 tsp. Dried Cumin
1 Tbs. Freshly Chopped
2 Ounces Unsalted Butter
6 Ounces Ripe Avocado

    Now you don't want to harvest the flesh from these until the very last moment, which would be now. Those go in [to the food processor] last, clamp on our lid, and pulse to combine. Now you might be wondering, why in the world do I need to use butter if I've got all the wonderful fat in avocados? Well the truth is, I need more saturated fat than the avocados can offer. That's because I want this butter to set up solid and then melt very slowly and smoothly. The only thing that can really do that is butter. So we'll use butter.

    Now once you've got this almost worked into a paste, go ahead and add a few pinches of salt, and a few pinches of pepper. You can always add more later.

Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground
    Black Pepper

    Slide in a piece of parchment paper or wax paper and deliver your guacamole butter right into the middle of the vessel. Get as much of it, of course, as you can. Then, simply fold over one edge to the middle, keep one hand here [on the end], take the edge of your pan, and slowly squeeze outward. There, until you get a nice log shape. Then carefully roll up the rest of the way, twist the ends, and chill.
    This will keep nicely in the refrigerator for about two weeks. When you need some, just cut it off, and then push the paper back over the end. Now if you want to look at long-term storage, then you're going to need to think about your freezer, and you'll need to wrap the butter in at least two layers of plastic in order to keep out any funky flavors.
    Application possibilities, nearly endless. I put this stuff on just about everything that comes off of my grill, from pork chops to bread to tomatoes to corn, salmon, burgers, you name it. Now that's good eats.

Park Bench

Curious Avocado Experiment #2


AB: You like ice cream, don't you?
GIRL: [eating a bowl of ice cream] Yes.
AB: Yeah, sure you do. I like avocados, a lot. You want a bite?
GIRL: [hakes her head "no"]
You know, in some parts of the world they eat avocados for dessert. Yeah, they do. In Brazil, they chill them, and they mash them up with sugar and milk, and eat them like a milk shake. In Indonesia, which is this island far away from here, they mash them up with coffee and eat them for dessert. Even little kids like you eat them.
GIRL: Is all that stuff true?
AB: Yes.
GIRL: Do they mash them up and eat them like milkshakes?
AB: Yes, they do. They eat them like milkshakes. You want some? [it's obvious that's what he's been eating now] It's good for you.
GIRL: [leaves]
Aw, fine. Fine. You want ice cream? I'll get you ice cream, kid.

The Kitchen

    The way I see it, the lynchpin ingredient in great ice cream is the egg: protein, emulsifiers, fat, it's got everything you need for creating a creamy, rich texture. But check this out. Three point five ounces of the green stuff gives us a little over two grams of protein, 16 grams of fat, and it still contains 6.3 grams of carbs for flavor and sweetness. So the trick to using avocados for ice cream is to think of them as eggs. They're even shaped the same. Coincidence? I don't think so.

    Fetcheth your favorite blender and toss in 12 ounces of avocado, one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, one-half cup of sugar, one cup of heavy cream, and one and one-half cups of whole milk right down the barrel. Lid that up and put the spurs to it.

12 Ounces Avocado
1 Tbs. Freshly Squeezed
    Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk

    The colder this mixture is when it hits the churn, the better the texture of the final ice cream will be. So, park this in your "coo-lah" for at least a couple of hours before you take it for a spin.

Mixture Should Be 40 Degrees or Below

    Break out your favorite ice cream maker and assemble its inner workings thusly. Clamp it on and get it running before you retrieve the mix. Pour it in. Now trust me, this stuff tastes pretty good right now, but in five or ten minutes, it will be even better.
    There. This has taken in about all the air that it will take and all the crystals that are ever going to be formed in there are there. But it's still kind of soft. [takes a bite] Mmm. Mmm. It has an excellent soft-serve consistency and it tastes oddly like avocado ... and yet, that's a good thing.

Like cocoa butter, avocado is used in hundreds of different cosmetics.

The Kitchen

Curious Avocado Experiment #3

GUESTS: Doctors, dressed in surgical gowns and masks.

DOCTORS: [all dressed in surgical garb and latex gloves are pawing at the windows]

    Sooner or later, most of us will fall into the latex-y grasp of the medical industry, especially if we keep eating stuff like this megamart cake, with its shocking shortening sugar-and-food dye frosting. [holds a spoonful up to the doctors] Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh. See what I mean?
    Now, what if you could replace this green goo with something that wouldn't dye your mouth green, wouldn't clog your arteries, and contain good stuff, like magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, and a host of heart-healthy fatty acids? You know, something like avocado!

DOCTORS: [scream and scurry off]

    Heh, heh, heh, heh. Heck, you might win a Nobel Prize or three, especially if the frosting tasted good.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Star Trek's "Mr. Spock"

    We will require the services of eight ounces of avocado flesh—that's two medium to large avocados—and the juice of half a lemon—that's about two teaspoons. And of course, if we don't use this [lemon juice], this [avocado] will turn brown as gravy before the day is over. Now, into your favorite mixer these will go. I like to do the avocado first and then the lemon on top. We will beat that for two to three minutes on medium speed until soft.

8 Ounces Avocado
2 tsp. Freshly Squeezed
    Lemon Juice

    In the meantime, sift one pound of confectioner's sugar. Now when working with confectioner's sugar, you must accept that somebody is going to get dirty and it's probably going to be you. But, we can cut down on the mess. For instance, sift over a flexible working board, cutting board. Use a sifter that can easily stay down on the table. And turn it [the sugar bag] over [into the sifter] and keep the bag on at all times to keep it from going airborne.

    Now the key to working this much sugar into that much avocado is to go very. very slowly or it'll all end up airborne. Now as far as delivery goes, I just kind of fold up this board around the sugar. And just to safe and make sure that it doesn't go popping out of my hand, I've got a couple of rubber bands on here. So, low speed, and be patient.

1 Pound Sifted Powder Sugar

    When you get about half the sugar in, then raise the speed just a bit. There. Now turn the motor down to stir or its lowest setting, and add the last flavorant, one-half teaspoon of lemon extract.

1/2 tsp. Lemon Extract

    At this point, you could you use this stuff either to make yourself a Ghostbusters sequel, or you could stash it in the fridge for a couple of hours so that the fats can firm up. Then you could actually frost a cake with it. What a concept!
    And it won't even turn your mouth green. You know, I think we've got a cake here that either Dr. Seuss or Dr. Spock would love.

MR. SPOCK: I find this frosting highly illogical.
AB: You know, I said "Dr. Spock", the famous pediatrician. Not "Mr. Spock."
MR. SPOCK: Oh. Well then, live long and prosper.
AB: Peace.

    So, we see in the end that not only can the old alligator pear learn a few new tricks, it can teach us a few new tricks. See you next time on "Good Eats".

AB: You want some cake.
MR. SPOCK: Sure.
AB: Okay, but only if you show me how to do that thing [tries to emulate the Vulcan Neck Pinch]. How's it work?
MR. SPOCK: It's more like this. [demonstrates, AB collapses onto the cake]

A great article on the historical names of avocados:

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010