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Ripening an Avocado

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I know I recently read it - I just don't remember where, and a quick search of my current food mags left me still wondering. Anyway, what I read was that, contrary to popular opinion, the best way to ripen an avocado was in the fridge. The cold temperature allows the avocado to ripen evenly, as opposed to ripening on the counter, where you get air pockets and uneven ripening. (From the sound of this, it must've been CI, but I can't find the reference).

So, a week ago I bought a bag of organic Mexican Haas avos (4 in a bag) and stuck them in the fridge. Today, they're still hard as a rock and look exactly like they looked when I put them in there.

What gives?

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You got some bad advice. Cold actually damages unripe avocados. Depending on the species, if you take them out of the refrigerator now, they'll likely go straight to rotting.

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Does anyone have the May, 2009 issue of CI and can look at this article?

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I just read it. It is very clear that you should have ripe avocados in 4 days that keep about 5 days. I haven't tried that trick though. I can e-mail you the article if you PM me.

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Thanks, Charcuterer! From the Cook's Illustrated article, May, 2009:

Avocados ripened in the refrigerator, whether in a bag or out in the open, took around four days to soften, but did so evenly. Stored in the fridge, they lasted a full five days before starting to show signs of over-ripening.

Exactly what I did with my $6 bag of avocados. Down the drain.

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You got some bad advice. Cold actually damages unripe avocados. Depending on the species, if you take them out of the refrigerator now, they'll likely go straight to rotting.

Interesting. This might explain the time I bought an advocado that was rock hard and seemed to remain rock hard forever. When I finally decided to cut into it to see what was going on, it was rotten. I bought it from an Asian grocer not famed for their handling of produce (get there the right day though and you can hit the jackpot). I wonder if it was stored cold, and that ruined it.

Definitely interested in more info on this.

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Definitely interested in more info on this.

McGee, On Food and Cooking (second edition), p 277:

Chilling injury may become apparent during storage, or only after the produce is brought back to room temperature . . . avocados darken and fail to soften further . . .

p 337:

If these warm-climate fruits are refrigerated while unripe, their cellular machinery is damaged and they will never ripen; once ripe, however, they can be refrigerated for several days and retain their quality.

From the first edition, p 202-203:

The avocado is also unique among fruits in its inability to metabolize anaerobically. If deprived of oxygen (in a tightly twisted plastic bag for example), the ripening process is halted, and when oxygen is restored, the fruit will spoil. The avocado is highly susceptible to chilling injury, and if stored at refrigerator temperatures for very long it will become discolored and develop off-flavors.

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Some excellent advice here.

The California Avocado Commission (CAC) does not recommend microwaving.

Notes here.

In my experience I have found that the apple in paper bag works well and I also toss in a banana PEEL if available as that tends to lessen the ripening time by a day.

I've done the microwave thing to SOFTEN an avocado but it really doesn't ripen it but microwaving for two 15 second sessions,(without piercing it) turning the avocado over between sessions, and then bagging it with an apple or banana has produced an acceptable result within 24-36 hours, starting with a rock-hard avocado.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

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Wonderful topic

then the Acvocats are on sale, i get unblemished ones that are the same firmness, or several of two firmness.

i leave them out on the counter for a day or two until the have a sl give. then i refrigerate in the crisper and take them out the AM of use. this has not failed me. the refrig adds 3 + days to their effective life time longer than that even 'counter ripe' they have bad blackness near the pit.

they do not ripen after taking out of the refrig as indicated.

its also important to take a few secs and look those avocats over before you buy: blemished ones will get you black cores no matter what!

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Definitely interested in more info on this.

McGee, On Food and Cooking (second edition), p 277:

Chilling injury may become apparent during storage, or only after the produce is brought back to room temperature . . . avocados darken and fail to soften further . . .

p 337:

If these warm-climate fruits are refrigerated while unripe, their cellular machinery is damaged and they will never ripen; once ripe, however, they can be refrigerated for several days and retain their quality.

From the first edition, p 202-203:

The avocado is also unique among fruits in its inability to metabolize anaerobically. If deprived of oxygen (in a tightly twisted plastic bag for example), the ripening process is halted, and when oxygen is restored, the fruit will spoil. The avocado is highly susceptible to chilling injury, and if stored at refrigerator temperatures for very long it will become discolored and develop off-flavors.

Thanks for the info. I'll have to get the book out and read further. This describes very closely what happened with my advocado and I've wondering about it ever since.

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So Cook's Illustrated should've read McGee, right?

Of course, the fruit is never ripe when picked because it doesn't ripen on the tree. And I'm sure they get pretty damn cold on the trip to NYC from Mexico via truck.

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The CI crowd can be condescending, smug, unnecessarily circuitous in their thinking (including many a trip through the land of the Straw Man), and downright boring at times, but they're rarely out-and-out wrong. So I can't account for their results.

Damage to avocados seems to have a threshold of 45°F/7°C. Trucks and trains headed to New York get cold, I'm sure, but probably not that cold -- ruining a semi-trailer full of expensive fruit seems like a quick way to go out of business, so there must be a way to mitigate temperature. Or maybe they come in the hold of a boat.

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Interesting to read the McGee quote above because that is exactly what I have learned to do over the years...buy a bag of avocados, let them ripen on the counter, then throw them in the fridge if I'm not going to eat them right away.

I find that they can sit in the fridge for at least a week before I notice any appreciable degredation.

It's great to do this when they have the 3 for $1 weekly sales and you want to stock up.

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Interesting to read the McGee quote above because that is exactly what I have learned to do over the years...buy a bag of avocados, let them ripen on the counter, then throw them in the fridge if I'm not going to eat them right away.

I find that they can sit in the fridge for at least a week before I notice any appreciable degredation.

It's great to do this when they have the 3 for $1 weekly sales and you want to stock up.

Yes. I live in "avocado land" and also have a bearing tree. I buy them rock hard and stick them in the fruit bowl which usually just has citrus, maybe a mango, and a few tomatoes. As soon as they are ripe they go into the vegetable drawer of the fridge. I prefer to buy them so they ripen sequentially and spend little time in the fridge, but when they are large ones in bags at less than a $1 each, I go for the bag. It is very rare for me to have to bin one.

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Interesting to read the McGee quote above because that is exactly what I have learned to do over the years...buy a bag of avocados, let them ripen on the counter, then throw them in the fridge if I'm not going to eat them right away.

I find that they can sit in the fridge for at least a week before I notice any appreciable degredation.

It's great to do this when they have the 3 for $1 weekly sales and you want to stock up.

Yes. My MIL taught me this (and me, living all those years in So. Cal!) and it works wonderfully well. If you put them in the fridge before they're ripe they just sit like rocks, but if you wait until they're just about ripe, they hold wonderfully. And great at sale time, as you say!

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Interesting to read the McGee quote above because that is exactly what I have learned to do over the years...buy a bag of avocados, let them ripen on the counter, then throw them in the fridge if I'm not going to eat them right away.

I find that they can sit in the fridge for at least a week before I notice any appreciable degredation.

It's great to do this when they have the 3 for $1 weekly sales and you want to stock up.

Yes. My MIL taught me this (and me, living all those years in So. Cal!) and it works wonderfully well. If you put them in the fridge before they're ripe they just sit like rocks, but if you wait until they're just about ripe, they hold wonderfully. And great at sale time, as you say!

I do something similar, but find the fact that they "sit like rocks" to be an advantage.

We eat a lot of avocados in our large family, and got accustomed to always having them around after having lived in Panama for four years where avocados were a ubiquitous staple in the markets. In addition, we had five avocado trees in our yard. They produced way more than we could eat, so we gave them away by the barrelful to anyone that wanted some. Of course, like all seasonal fruit, we would go from having barrelsful to having none. We learned that we could put those hard avocados into the fridge where they would indeed "sit like rocks" for several weeks - even months - and then take them out a few at a time and leave them on the counter, or in our fruit bowl, where they would ripen. If we needed to hurry them along for some reason, we'd use the "paper bag" trick.

This is still basically what we do. Buy them hard, and in bulk. Into the fridge. Take them out a few at a time to ripen as we need them. Yesterday, we ate three - two in sandwiches at noontime and one in last night's salad, so I got three more out of the fridge to ripen.

I feel pretty sure that's how they ship them, after all. Refrigerate the hard avocados until they arrive at the store where they slowly ripen on the produce shelves. Goodness knows how many weeks that takes.

I dunno. This works for us. They will ripen very slowly in the fridge, but in my experience anyway, they don't ripen evenly or well in there. I can't imagine that being anyone's advice as to the best thing to do.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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You see, we're even getting conflicting opinions here - not really a surprise.

I am wondering if the different varieties of avos respond in different ways to fluctuations in temperature and/or refrigeration. High-oil content avocados, like the Haas, may dislike refrigeration more than a variety like Fuerte. But, since they're all basically a warm-weather fruit, I'm probably just blowing smoke with this theory.

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You see, we're even getting conflicting opinions here - not really a surprise.

I am wondering if the different varieties of avos respond in different ways to fluctuations in temperature and/or refrigeration. High-oil content avocados, like the Haas, may dislike refrigeration more than a variety like Fuerte. But, since they're all basically a warm-weather fruit, I'm probably just blowing smoke with this theory.

In Panama, our trees were two different varieties: Haas, and one that the Panamanians called "butter avocados." I don't know the generic name of those, but they were larger, and when you cut into them, you had no doubt where they got the name. They were indeed as smooth and rich and buttery as could be imagined and the flesh even had a slightly golden hue. They were considered to be the primo avocados, though, and since we had no fence around our back yard, and it backed right up to the jungle, that tree often had a Panamanian or two up in it collecting avocados.

Those avocados did hold well in the fridge, but probably not so well as the Haas, which seemed to last forever.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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Avocados in provincial East Central Ontario seem mostly to come in two varieties...either rock hard or 'gosh, I would have thrown that one away' 'why isn't it on for half price'? I've yet to see an overripe avocado on for a reduced price. Fact of life here.

Instead of throwing the past their prime ones out, I make guacamole and freeze it in small bags. It freezes very well and thaws equally well and at the price we have to pay, I can't afford to throw these little gems out.

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You see, we're even getting conflicting opinions here - not really a surprise.

I am wondering if the different varieties of avos respond in different ways to fluctuations in temperature and/or refrigeration. High-oil content avocados, like the Haas, may dislike refrigeration more than a variety like Fuerte. But, since they're all basically a warm-weather fruit, I'm probably just blowing smoke with this theory.

In Panama, our trees were two different varieties: Haas, and one that the Panamanians called "butter avocados." I don't know the generic name of those, but they were larger, and when you cut into them, you had no doubt where they got the name. They were indeed as smooth and rich and buttery as could be imagined and the flesh even had a slightly golden hue. They were considered to be the primo avocados, though, and since we had no fence around our back yard, and it backed right up to the jungle, that tree often had a Panamanian or two up in it collecting avocados.

Those avocados did hold well in the fridge, but probably not so well as the Haas, which seemed to last forever.

That sounds like a Reed avocado. Very large and buttery.

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You see, we're even getting conflicting opinions here - not really a surprise.

I am wondering if the different varieties of avos respond in different ways to fluctuations in temperature and/or refrigeration. High-oil content avocados, like the Haas, may dislike refrigeration more than a variety like Fuerte. But, since they're all basically a warm-weather fruit, I'm probably just blowing smoke with this theory.

In Panama, our trees were two different varieties: Haas, and one that the Panamanians called "butter avocados." I don't know the generic name of those, but they were larger, and when you cut into them, you had no doubt where they got the name. They were indeed as smooth and rich and buttery as could be imagined and the flesh even had a slightly golden hue. They were considered to be the primo avocados, though, and since we had no fence around our back yard, and it backed right up to the jungle, that tree often had a Panamanian or two up in it collecting avocados.

Those avocados did hold well in the fridge, but probably not so well as the Haas, which seemed to last forever.

That sounds like a Reed avocado. Very large and buttery.

Wow, good job! I've often wondered what the "official" name was. And that does indeed sound exactly right.

We also lived in Orlando for several years and ate those large watery avocados they grow in south Florida. Some people have said that those must be the same variety that we ate in Panama, but I strongly disagreed. Those big avocados from Florida are not, in my opinion anyway, particularly flavorful. And the watery texture isn't to my liking. It's certainly nothing like butter.

Those buttery avocados from Panama were the best-tasting ones I've ever had.

Before or since.

Thanks so much for your efforts!


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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You are welcome. The Reed avocado is a common variety here in San Diego (that actually originated in Carlsbad). The variety you were describing seems very similar.

I agree with you that this type of avocado does not do as well in the fridge, compared to Haas avocados for example. Once ripe, they need to be eaten fairly quickly!

I handle avocados the same way other people have described upthread: I let them ripen at room temperature, in a paper bag if I want to speed up the process. Once ripe, we eat them right away or store them for a few days in the frige.

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Depending on the season, I look for avocados at different stores.

This week Vallarta supermarket has "small" Hass avocados 4 for a dollar. To me they look to be average size.

The produce market has Hass (I consider them fairly large) for 99¢ each.

The 99¢ store has two smallish ones in a mesh bag for a dollar.

Ralph's has Hass 2/1.00 I don't know the size, haven't been in the store.

In California, where a lot of avocados are grown, there are different seasons for different varieties.

I know I have posted this link in another topic but here is a good reference for identifying the various varieties and the times of the year they are available.

Avocado info.

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I have noticed that when I buy Avocados from Trader Joes they seem to go straight from Hard to rotten. But the ones at Costco have a longer "grace period". When I put my avocados in the refrigerator I put them big end down in a large silicon muffin pan. The soft silicon gives enough that the fruit doesn't bruise.

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