A toast to avocados on National Avocado Day

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Whether you love them or you hate them, avocados are everywhere these days.

They've flooded restaurant menus and supermarket produce aisles and become a food fad. They're popping up in salads, on sandwiches, and, of course, at parties as guacamole.

Their newest starring role is as one of the hottest food trends today — avocado toast.

Avocado toast?

"It's a piece of toast that has avocado as a base and a topping on top," said Robi Kellerman of Egremont, co-author with Great Barrington resident Pamela Fink of "Avocado Highway: 30 Ways to Make the Most of Your Avocado Toast."

Kellerman, a health coach, said she and Fink decided to "zoom in on a niche that hadn't been done."

Avocados' recent popularity, Kellerman said, is because people are realizing the heath benefits of avocados — the fiber and protein.

"In addition, they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to being a good source of potassium and protein," Kellerman added. "They're good for heart health and are loaded with vitamins and minerals."

An avocado is a fruit, Kellerman said, because it has a pit.

According to avocadosfrommexico.com, it is believed Puebla, located in south central Mexico, is the motherland of the avocado, where locals began consuming them nearly 10,000 years ago. It's also believed that Mesoamerican tribes first domesticated the avocado tree (Persea Americana) 5,000 years ago, making the cultivation of avocados as old as the invention of the wheel. They became popular in the United States in the 1950s as a salad ingredient.

"Avocados are grown in warm climates," Kellerman said. "They grown on trees like bananas — they mature on the tree, but they ripen off the tree. Mexico is the largest producer, but 90 percent of avocados sold in the United States come from California." She added that Florida also produces avocados.

While there a many varieties, Kellerman said the two main varieties are Hass avocados, grown in Mexico and California, and Florida avocados. Hass avocados have 80 percent of the worldwide market and are the most widely cultivated, she said.

Kellerman speculated that the price of avocados grown in Mexico would be going up in the United States due to impending tariffs enacted by President Donald Trump. According to a recent report by USA Today, avocado prices are on the rise because of a combination of three factors: Demand for the popular fruit is increasing at a faster rate than they can be produced; due to weather conditions, California's crop is is the smallest it's been in a decade; and the possibility of tariffs on Mexico and concerns that the border will close.

But the price doesn't seem to be scarring avocado-loving consumers away. According to the same article, in the first week of July, the wholesale prices of mid-sized avocados from Mexico were 129 percent higher than this time last year.

If you're not bothered by a possible price hike, Kellerman offers a few suggestions for shoppers: "Give it a gentle squeeze. It should have a little give — not too hard, not too mushy. The outside color shouldn't be any different, although look for ones without any scarring." It will last a day or so on your counter or two to four days in the refrigerator.

To peel an avocado, Kellerman said to slice the avocado in half vertically, carefully remove the pit and peel the skin off with your fingers. If you're not worried about presentation, you can also scoop out the avocado flesh with a spoon.

"Wherever you use cream cheese, you can use avocado," Kellerman said. "Cream cheese and eggs, avocado and eggs; cream cheese and lox, avocado and lox; cream cheese and cucumber, avocado and cucumber."

"Avocado Highway: 30 Ways to Make the Most of Your Avocado Toast" is available at the Red Lion Inn, The Bookloft, One Mercantile, Guido's Fresh Marketplace, Amazon or at avocado-highway.com.

TRAINING WHEELS

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 slices 8-grain bread, toasted

1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

1 avocado, halved, pitted and mashed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 pinch coarse or flaky sea salt

DIRECTIONS:

Rub the smashed garlic on the toast. Top with a generous layer of avocado. Garnish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.

***

BETTAH WITH FETA

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

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2 slices olive bread, toasted

1 avocado, halved, pitted and sliced

Small wedge watermelon, thinly sliced

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

DIRECTIONS:

Place avocado slices on toast. Top with sliced watermelon and feta cheese. Garnish with a sprinkling of poppy seeds.

***

AVOCADO HIGHWAY

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 slices focaccia, toasted

1 avocado, halved, pitted and mashed

4 medium radishes, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon hemp seeds

Extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse or flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Spread avocado on each piece of toast. Generously top with sliced radishes. Sprinkle with hemp seeds. Garnish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

***

LOX NESS

Serves 2

2 slices sourdough, toasted

1 avocado, halved, pitted and sliced

4-6 slices extra-thin Nova or smoked salmon

1/4 small cucumber, julienned

1 large radish, julienned

1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 heaping teaspoon capers

1 pinch chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS:

Place avocado slices on top of toasted sourdough. Drape the Nova or smoked salmon over the avocado. Top with cucumber and radishes. Garnish with capers and a shower of dill.


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