•It's a fruit, not a vegetable, 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 being picked. They ripen off the tree.

•Avocados are sodium- and cholesterol-free and have only five 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 antioxidant that's good for the eyes.

•Refrigerate only ripe avocados ; unripe avocados will not ripen in the cold. Store ripe avocados for up to five days - longer and the flesh can turn to flavorless mush and darken.

•Freeze pureed avocado for about four months to use in dips, sauces and spreads. Puree ripe avocados in a blender using 1 tablespoon of lime or lemon juice for each avocado. Place in airtight container leaving 1-inch head space. Cover and freeze.

- Avocadocentral.com

Buying, Pitting, Slicing:

•To use 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 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 three to four 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 circumference and twist to separate. One half will have the pit. Carefully stab the pit with a sharp knife so it sticks and work out the pit.

•To mash, spoon out the flesh. To dice or slice, cut the flesh while still in the skin and use a spoon to release the slices or dice. 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. This helps prevent darkening. ]]>

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