Why Some Chefs Are Trying To Cancel Avocados

There are very few reasons to say no to avocados. An 80-gram portion of this naturally fatty fruit contains a significant amount of protein, fat, carb, fiber, potassium, and Vitamin E. And while it may pack the 6 grams of fat, 60% of which is monounsaturated, the type that nutritionists and doctors say is effective against heart disease. It even has oleic acid and linoleic acid which can help if you have a high level of cholesterol (via BBC). 

But for all the good an avocado can deliver, it has an environmental cost. Avocado trees need about 84.5 gallons of water (via The Guardian) and a meter of soil in order to grow properly. They also aren't keen on changes to humidity, hate frost, and are averse to salinity, making them difficult to grow (via Sustainable Food Trust). Moreover, because there are ethics and sustainability issues involving avocado cultivation in Latin America and especially Mexico, where most avocados come from, more chefs are now calling diners to drop or, failing that, wean themselves off their avocado usage. 

Aldo Camarena, a Toronto-based chef who immigrated from Mexico, paints a dire picture of the situation, telling blogTO, "The current rate at which this fruit is being consumed, and its increase in demand, directly threatens the way of life of millions of people. Be it from lack of access to water, deforestation, land erosion, criminal activity or inaccessibility to our produce."

Seeking out options

Despite the calls to lighten up on the avocado, engineering a breakup between the avocado and those that love it has been a challenge because, as any fan will tell you, finding a substitute that can mimic the fruit's mouthfeel and vibrant color is a challenge – but that hasn't stopped professional chefs from trying, and they have reported modest success.

If you want to shake up your food choices, chef Aldo Camarena, suggested going for a tasty dip known as sigil p'ak, a Mayan pumpkin seed dip made with pumpkin seeds, peppers, and tomatillos (via blogTO). Epicurious offers up one way of making this with seeds, a habanero chile, plum tomatoes, cilantro, and chives.

Another substitute proposed by U.K. chef Thomasina Meyers sees her swapping out avocado for fava beans in her guacamole – aka the "Wahacamole," which like guacamole, makes use of green chiles and limes to add flavor. Vegan writer Bettina Campolucci who once lived in Spain and swore by locally grown avocados has now reached for something else: "My favorite recipe to date uses British peas instead. I blanche the peas before crushing them and mixing them with plant-based sour cream, salt and pepper, a little grated garlic, and a spritz of lemon juice" (via The Guardian).

Reaching for local options

Irish chef JP McMahon argued that avocados are "a lazy chef's option" and added, "There are local options that we can use if we want to give a vegan or vegetarian option; it doesn't always have to be an avocado" (via BBC). Aldo Camarena seemed to take a similar stance, pointing out that for "many Latin Americans, avocado ... is not just a dip to watch the Super Bowl with. It isn't a trendy superfood, nor is it something to overindulge on. For many of us Latin Americans, that naturally ripe, local product is pretty central to our diet, culture and identity" (via blogTO). 

Given all the chatter about climate change, Camarena offered up one simple way to do your part to save the planet: "If you want to do something nice for the earth today, either cut down on or entirely cut off your avocado consumption. There is one sustainable way to consume avocados, and that is locally and in moderation," Camarena says.