Avocados (Persea americana, USDA hardiness zones 10-12) are a delicious and healthy addition to your diet, but they do have one major downside: They're known to be tricky in terms of ripening, and an underripe or overripe avocado will be far less pleasant and sometimes inedible. Getting the ripening process right can ensure a perfect avocado every time.
Ripening on the Tree
If you've grown your own tree from seed, it will take a while for you to start seeing avocado fruits. Avocado trees grown from seed can take many years to begin flowering and bearing fruit. There may be another disappointment, too, when the fruits from your seed-started tree do not resemble the avocado from which you extracted the seed in terms of quality and taste.
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Once your avocado tree is producing fruits, it's important to know when to pick them. The ideal month to pick the fruit depends on the variety, but the common Hass avocado (Persea americana 'Hass,' zones 9-11) tends to be riper during the summer months. A good indicator that it's time to pick is if a few of the fruits have already dropped.
If you are picking your own avocados to check for ripeness, begin by picking just one large specimen, allowing it some time to ripen. Then, check on the fruit before picking any others.
Ripening Avocados After Picking
Avocados are unusual in that after picking, they require extra time to fully ripen. If you aren't ready to begin eating your avocados, it's best to leave them on the tree until 10 days to two weeks before you want to begin eating them.
If you are buying your avocado in a store, planning ahead is key. Think about how soon you want to eat your avocado and purchase accordingly. A darker, softer-feeling fruit will be ready for consumption more quickly, while a firmer, greener specimen will need a few days of ripening before it can be eaten.
To keep picked avocados from ripening too fast, you should store them in your fridge rather than in a fruit bowl at room temperature. Lower temperatures mean slower ripening. Avocados produce ethylene gas during their ripening process, so ensuring they have airflow and the gas doesn't become trapped can also help prevent avocados from ripening too fast. Other fruits that produce ethylene gas can speed up the ripening process too, so keep your avocados away from apples and bananas in particular.
Keeping Avocados Fresh
Once you've pitted and peeled your avocado, you have a pretty short window in which to eat it. There are certain things you can do to keep your opened avocado fresher for longer, though. You should store your avocado in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
If your avocado starts to look brown, you can remove the spoiled parts, and the fruit underneath should still be fresh. Storing your remaining avocado with the pit still attached can also slow down the ripening process simply by minimizing the amount of fruit that is exposed to the air and oxidization.
Another tip to help keep your avocados fresher for longer is applying some kind of edible acid to the exposed area of the fruit. Both apple cider vinegar and lemon juice can help prevent an avocado from turning brown. It may add to the taste of the fruit too.