Ahhh-vocados they're not just for guacamole. Although the yummy dip is probably one of their most popular uses, there are other reasons to love avocados.
You can use them to make dipping sauces for chicken, pork and beef.
You can mash, season and spread them on bread for sandwiches.
You can slice them for salads and sandwiches, purée them for smoothies and use them in cooked dishes.
A personal favorite is avocado slices drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with fine sea salt and chopped cilantro.
And although one medium avocado contains a lot of fat 30 grams it's mostly the monounsaturated kind thought to lower bad cholesterol and boost good cholesterol.
Botanically, avocados are a fruit, but you'll usually find them stacked near the vegetables in stores. They're available year-round thanks to growing regions in California, Florida, Mexico and Chile.
In stores now is the black-skinned Hass variety from Mexico.
The California Hass comes in March.
All about the avocado
Avowedly avocado: It's a fruit, not a vegetable, and a native of South and Central America.
Hass and Fuerte are the most common varieties.
More than 90 percent of the nation's avocados come from California.
Florida avocados of the Fuerte variety are larger and have more water and less fat than Hasses.
Avocados can hang on the tree for months before picking. They ripen off the tree.
Avocados are sodium- and cholesterol-free, and have only 5 grams of fat per 1-ounce serving (about 3 slices). Most of the fat is monounsaturated, a good fat thought to benefit cholesterol health.
Avocados also are a good source of lutein, an anti- oxidant that's good for the eyes.
Refrigerate only ripe avocados; unripe ones will not ripen in cold. Store ripe avocados up to five days longer and the flesh can turn to flavorless mush and darken.
Freeze puréed avocado for about 4 months to use in dips, sauces and spreads. Purée ripe avocados in a blender using 1 tablespoon of lime or lemon juice for each avocado. Place in airtight container leaving 1/2 to 1 inch head space. Cover and freeze.
Buy, pit, slice
To use them right away, choose ripe avocados with smooth, dark- green skin or pebbly skin that is almost purplish-black.
Press gently on the widest part; your finger should leave a slight indentation. Don't buy if the fruit has uneven soft spots.
If not using right away, choose hard fruits with bright green skins. Leave them on the counter to ripen in 3 to 4 days. Place them in a paper bag with an apple or banana to speed up ripening.
Ignore "ripe for tonight" stickers on avocados. Judge by touch.
To slice, place on the counter and steady with the palm of your hand. Slice around the circum-ference and twist to separate. One half will have the pit. Carefully stab the pit with a sharp knife so it sticks, then work out the pit.
To mash, spoon out the flesh. To dice or slice, cut the flesh while it's still in the skin and use a spoon to release the slices or diced pieces. For even slices, cut the flesh through the skin and then remove the skin.
Once it's cut, sprinkle the flesh with lemon or lime juice and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the avocado. That helps prevent darkening.