How to master the avocado

Avocados have become quite popular due to their healthy fats, smooth texture, and extreme versatility — you can spread it on toast, throw it in a smoothie, or toss it in a salad. Topping dishes with this superfood gives your food a dose of healthy fats and extra flavor. However, avocados are tricky to handle, in that they seemingly take forever to ripen, and then you have a very short window before they turn brown. Never fear, however — now you can buy a dozen unripe avocados and have them ready to eat in no time!

Ripening through baking

After feeling the avocado and finding that it is quite firm, begin with the ripening process. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (you'll want a dry heat to avoid ending up with a mushy avocado). Wrap the green avocado in a single layer of tin foil. Make sure that the edges are sealed well, which will ensure that the fruit (yes, an avocado is a fruit) ripens evenly. If you sloppily wrap the avocado, you could end up with the center being rock-hard and unusable.

Place the wrapped avocado directly on the oven rack, and bake for ten minutes. Once the time has elapsed, remove the fruit with tongs. Allow the avocado to cool completely before unwrapping it. This ripening process is completely natural, and you're now ready to eat.

Peeling

Now that you have a perfectly ripe avocado, you'll want to peel it like a pro. Once it's completely cooled, secure a cutting board by placing a damp paper towel underneath (this is to ensure the board won't slip). Next, lay your avocado horizontally on the board and, using a sharp knife, cut down the avocado lengthwise around the seed. From there, holding the avocado securely in one hand, you'll twist the two halves until they come apart. To remove the seed, (which is impossible to miss because of its large size), use a spoon to scoop it out.

Removing the dark skin of the fruit is quite simple: slice the prepared avocado into wedges, then use your fingers to peel away the skin. If the skin is difficult to remove, your avocado may not yet be completely ripe.

The perfect guacamole

Everyone has their own guacamole recipe that they swear by, but there's a right way and a wrong way to prepare this dip. The basic ingredients for guacamole are avocados, salt, and … that's it! But here's where some people go wrong: using avocados that aren't quite ripe can ruin the whole dish. Instead of a side dish that's rich and smooth, you'll end up with unpleasant hard chunks. On the flip side, you don't want to use mushy brown avocados either — if the fruit is past ripeness, the murky brown filling will certainly offset everyone's appetite. So make sure to test your avocados before using them. Press into the skin, and if you feel too much resistance, the fruit is not ready to eat. If the avocado is too soft and mushy, you've missed your chance to use it.

To make the perfect guac dip, all you need are two ripe avocados, salt, lime juice, red onion, black pepper, tomato, and cilantro. Mash your avocados until they're smooth in texture, and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips or add to a salad for extra flavor.

The ultimate avocado dessert

Avocados in dessert sounds strange, right? Wrong — we would argue that avocados are the perfect addition to dessert. Their creamy texture, coupled with a mild flavor, makes avocados a no-brainer ingredient in the world of sweets. If you're still not sure what to create, try creating a Mexican-inspired cheesecake. Avocados and limes are staples in Mexican cuisine, so it's only natural to pair them together. The lime accents the avocado by balancing the acidity of the creamy fruit.

For a mouthwatering creation, mix together avocados, whipped cream, sugar, butter, lime juice, and zest. Pour your mixture into a graham cracker crust, and don't forget to garnish the finished cheesecake with extra lime zest.

Grow your own

The large avocado seed just begs to be planted — after removing it from the fruit, it's almost heartbreaking to throw it away! Planting your own avocado tree is minimal work, but it will take up to four years for it to begin bearing any fruit. Sometimes these trees can take fifteen years to mature! So, definitely don't plant when you're hungry. But whether or not you're successful in growing your own avocados, you're sure to have a beautiful houseplant you can display.

To prep the seed, clean it thoroughly and insert three toothpicks evenly around the small sphere. Now place the avocado seed, half submerged, in a glass of water. The toothpicks serve a dual purpose here, and are useful in stabilizing the seed. Put the cup on a windowsill with direct sunlight. After about six weeks, you'll begin to see the seed crack and grow small roots. When the roots have begun to grow substantially (about six inches long) you can transfer the seed to a pot. If you're lucky, your inexpensive house plant will bear some super-delicious fruit in the years to come.