Why Is Picking the Perfect Avocado So Hard?
Black, purple, nubs, raw—are we even talking about the same thing?
Ah, avocados. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways: smashed into guacamole, sliced on salads, tucked inside tacos and of course, topping our favorite toast. Americans are eating way more of this green fruit—which is technically defined by botanists as a large berry, by the way—than they used to. Domestic consumption has increased dramatically over the last two decades, with the average person consuming nearly 7.5 pounds of avocados annually in 2018, compared to only 2 pounds in 2001, according to Statista.
It’s safe to say that many shoppers are tossing (or gently placing, so as not to bruise) the delicious, nutritious, versatile avocado into their grocery carts nearly every week. And it turns out, as much as we love them, we’re pretty dang picky about them, too.
Instacart, a San Francisco-based grocery shopping delivery service, employs professionals to shop for customers’ food orders. Within the app, there’s a box where customers can add notes for the shopper—and by far, one of the most commented-on items is the avocado (ordered about 43,000 times per day). Revisiting two years’ worth of avocado shopping instructions from customers, Instacart found some pretty hilarious (and some eyebrow raising) comments. Take a look:
Instacart Customer Tips for Picking the Best Avocado
“I need one that is ready to eat. Touch end of your nose—that is how an avocado should feel when ready.”
“Please try to find two that are on the soft side—like your cheek.”
“If you can find any that are in the middle of green and brown, that would be perfect. Not quite fully ripe but not all the way ripe.”
“Please pick avocados that are not too green and hard and not too soft and dark—in between—as if you planned to eat the avocado in 2–3 days, not right away.”
“One that is starting to turn slightly black, not completely black”
“Please pick semi raw avocados.”
“Mature but not damaged”
“Please make sure they’re not completely ripped or old.”
“Organic only and with smooth skins (no “scars” or “knots”), not already fully ripe (a little soft OK), otherwise please skip and refund, thank you!”
“Please make sure the avocados are in between.”
“Where the nubs easily flick please. Thx u!”
“Hard ones only and as big as you can find.”
“Two should be green and very hard. One should be dark and you should be able to make a dent when you press with medium pressure. Please make sure they are Hass avocados with bumpy skin, and not the smooth skinned ones with them SLIMCADO sticker. Please also make sure they’re Hass avocados: smaller with bumpy skin. DO NOT GET the big ones with the Slimcado sticker.”
“Riper is better! Even soft and old looking, lol”
“Can you make sure one is ripe (purple) and the other is green (not ripe)”
“Please get avocados that we could use today. Not gooey, but somewhat soft to use for guacamole.”
“Something bumpy with some give, pretty please. Aren’t avocados amazing?!”
Amazing, indeed. But still, it can be confusing (especially after reading all the notes above) to know how you’re actually selecting the avocado that will be most amazing for what you’re intending to do with it. So we called in a pro; Gerald Anderson III, an Instacart shift lead based in Los Angeles, shares four tips for picking (or ordering!) the perfect avocado every time.
Know the difference between ripe and raw. Ripe means that it’s ready to eat once cut open; the avocado when ripe will be firm, yet easily mashed, and have a beautiful green color inside, says Anderson. Raw, on the other hand, is in reference to produce that is in its raw, unmanipulated state—a.k.a., not cooked. Point being, all avocados in the produce bin are raw, that doesn’t mean they’re ripe.
Go green. The outside of a good avocado should be green and not already turning brown. If it is brown, that means its overripe, says Anderson. Bruised avocados are another sign of over-ripeness.
Give it a feel. When holding the avocado in your hand, its outer layer should be able to be pressed and give way slightly. If it barely moves, it’s not ripe enough, but if you can easily squish it, put it back, says Anderson.
Check the end. Rub your thumb over the stem at the top of the fruit—if it’s easily flicked off, then it’s ripe to eat (so the “nubs flick easily” guy wasn’t so wrong, after all).