The science of plants at the table: avocados

Avocados are berries and the main ingredient in guacamole.

Avocados are berries (yes, berries!) Of the Lauraceae (laurel) family and are sometimes called alligator pears. Some of the other members of the laurel family include bay leaves, cinnamon, camphor, and sassafras. The botanical name of the avocado is American Perseus. The genre Perseus consists or evergreen trees that produce berries.

Many people think avocados are drupes, such as cherries, peaches, and olives. Fruits classified as drupes have a very hard, stony cover around their seeds. This tough covering is called the endocarp, often referred to as the fossa. Conversely, avocados are berries because their endocarp is soft and has a smooth texture.

Avocados originate from Latin America and the Caribbean. Mexico is the world’s leading avocado producer. In the United States, California is the top producer with Californian avocados available from spring through fall.

Here are some fun facts from the Michigan State University extension on avocados:

  • Avocados are packed with nutrients.
  • Avocados are pretty much the only fruit that contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats – the good fat.
  • Avocados act as nutrient boosters, helping you absorb fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, K and E.
  • Avocados have been grown for thousands of years, dating back to 500 BC
  • There are over 400 varieties of avocado grown in the world, but the Hass grown in Mexico and California are the most popular.
  • According to the University of California, the Hass avocado was named after a post office employee, Rudolf Hass, who bought a seedling from a farmer in 1926 and filed a patent for that variety in 1935.
  • The Hass avocado does not begin to ripen until it is harvested.
  • California grows 90% of the avocados grown in the United States
  • The polyphenol oxidase in avocado cells causes an enzymatic reaction that causes the fruit to turn brown after being cut. When the fruit has oxidized, it doesn’t look good, but it’s still safe to eat. To prevent the avocados from “browning”, you can squeeze a little lemon juice on the fruit pulp.

Avocados are the main ingredient in guacamole. Guacamole has become so popular in the United States that the United States is estimated to have consumed 105 million pounds of guacamole on Super Bowl Sunday in 2022. The downside to this tasty treat is that the guacamole and avocado appetite in the United States and Canada is leading to deforestation in Mexico.

Here are some facts about guacamole:

  • Guacamole is a Mexican dish; the name derives from the classic Nahuatl āhuacamōlli, which literally means “avocado sauce”.
  • The ancient Aztecs invented guacamole, they called it ahuaca-moli.
  • Molli was the word Nahautl for “something mashed” while ahuactl refers to the testicles, or the seed of the fruit reminded them of the testicles.
  • The largest serving of guacamole was created on April 6, 2018, weighing 8,351 pounds and required more than 350 people to prepare it.

Ready to try your tasty guacamole delight? Try this recipe from


From start to finish: 20 minutes

Portions: 6


3 avocados, (large, ripe)

1 tomato (medium), seeded and diced

1/2 white onion, diced

1/2 cup cilantro, (1/3 bunch) finely chopped

3 tablespoons of lime juice

1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

¼ teaspoon of black pepper


  1. Cut three avocados in half lengthwise; remove the pit and scrape the avocado pulp with a spoon. Place in a medium bowl with a flat bottom and mash the avocados with a potato masher until they are coarse.
  2. Squeeze the lime juice directly over the avocados while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, onion and chopped cilantro. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
  4. Stir only until combined and serve.

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