Have you ever had a fresh, ripe avocado? They are amazing. As you may or may not know, the avocado is a rich, flavorful, versatile fruit, usable in numerous dishes (primarily Mexican cuisine), and it is actually very good for the body, possessing healthy fats, potassium, and many other vitamins and minerals. However, once an avocado has been cut open, the exposed flesh of the fruit can spoil very quickly due to the presence of air around it. You will definitely know when this happens because the avocado will become brown in color, and the taste will change as well.
These two things happen as a result of oxidation. Oxidation describes the chemical reaction that occurs when something is exposed to oxygen; the exchange of electrons from the substance to the oxygen causes metal to rust and fruit to rot. In the case of the avocado, its yummy structures are breaking down, which leads to less nutritional value and an altered flavor. Within reason, you could still eat an avocado in this state, though it’s inadvisable, at least according to the Hass Avocado Board. In fact, you’re better off eating the entire avocado all at once to avoid the problem.
So, what do you do if you have been careless, and the avocado has begun to turn brown? Fortunately, the situation is not entirely hopeless. The first and most important thing to do is to scrape off the uppermost layer, the brown part. If ‘the brown’ has not set in all the way, you can still save the majority of the fruit, which cuts down on your waste. Still, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” as the old adage goes. If you can’t eat the entire avocado all at once, can you keep the remainder fresh?
Yes, yes you can. If you can’t eat all of the avocado and want to save some for later on, your goal is essentially to limit the effects of oxidation. The classic way to do this is to put the avocado in a bag, make sure there is as little air in the back as possible, and put the bag in a refrigerator for safe keeping. Keeping the air (oxygen) out of the bag and away from the avocado will limit the opportunity for oxygen to degrade the quality of the fruit, making sure you have some avocado for later.
Keep in mind these rules apply not just to halved avocados, but also to dips and guacamole as well. When it comes to the halves, make sure you leave the seed in the half you haven’t eaten- this will allow for easier form-fitting wrapping. You’ll want to press plastic wrap as firmly to the exposed flesh as possible, using just enough to tightly wrap up over the seed. In the case of dip, you’ll want to do the same, pressing down plastic wrap right onto the surface of the dip. An air gap here means the surface would brown.
Plastic wrap/bags aren’t the only solution, however. If for whatever reason you’re not ready to put away your avocado, you have other options. Perhaps you’re using slices on a party platter, and need to keep them fresher longer because you want to keep them available to guests. In cases like this, instead of awkward lids or plastic baggies, you can simply apply an acid to the fleshy surface of the avocado. If you’re at a loss for acid, don’t worry- you probably have some around the home. Use lemon or lime juice to keep the avocado flesh nice and fresh.
The acid in lemons and limes can interfere with the oxidation process. This will delay the avocado’s browning and loss of flavor. Speaking of flavor, adding lemon or lime juice to your avocados can really bring up the flavor of your mashed avocado or guacamole. In fact, if you’re in the market for recipes, there are a lot of ways you can avocado. There are other things you can put on/near avocados to stop them from browning. For example, some people use onions, while others favor olive oil- preservation aside, both are certainly great to cook/eat with olive oil too.
In the end, it’s better for both your wallet and your health to keep your avocados nice and fresh. When properly protected, avocados can last up to a week, so used sparingly, you can get a lot out of a little. In fact, you’ll even want to keep whole avocados in the fridge if they have already ripened to keep them from getting too squishy or moldy. You’ll be able to tell this is happening by changes and “gaps” in the avocado as you press on the skin and the dried brown discoloration, or white fuzz. Then, it’s too late.