I’ll confess that I’ve seen a lot of mushy, browning avocados in my time. Although our initial inclination may be to toss it away, doing so might be a tremendous (wasteful) error, since not all brown avocados are harmful. In truth, the majority of them are entirely safe to consume and aren’t always a sign of rotting. You shouldn’t judge a book—or an avocado—by its cover, as the phrase goes.
In order to prevent wasting another wonderful piece of fruit, we consulted with a food scientist who has spent years studying the anatomy of avocados to figure out what causes this change in look. Although the majority of brown avocado instances are completely safe, there are a few physical markers that may assist identify between the good, the bad, and the ugly (but perfectly edible) avocados. We’ve also included tips on how to keep your cado fresh for as long as possible, as well as a few strategies for determining whether or not this tropical fruit is ready to eat before you split it open.
Why is it okay to eat a brown avocado?
Savannah Braden, a biological scientist and the assistant director of technology at Apeel Sciences, a food-tech business that has created a plant-based covering that helps avocados and other fresh fruit last twice as long, explained why an avocado turns brown and whether it’s safe to eat. She explained that, although the slightly browned flesh of the previously vibrantly green fruit may not be as appealing to the eye, it’s merely the consequence of enzymatic browning, a benign (and naturally occurring) chemical reaction.
Browning may be caused by a variety of factors, according to Braden. “Cutting open an avocado causes internal browning of the flesh because the cells are disrupted, releasing enzymes that react with oxygen and other substances in the fruit to produce the brown colour. While it may seem unsightly, eating an avocado that has turned brown after being chopped is quite safe,” she adds. So go ahead and eat the off-color portions of your guacamole without shame. Isn’t it better to be late than never?
How can you know whether an avocado is really stale?
Although most incidents of a browning avocado are completely innocuous, you may come across one that has gone beyond the point of no return, according to Braden. Braden suggests searching for a few visual indications to assist identify the rotten ones in order to find them. “If the avocado is already dark when you slice into it, something else is probably at work,” she says. “It may have been kept in excessively cold or too hot settings, or it could have been dropped or injured.” You can always chop off or eat around the injured meat in this situation,” she advises, avoiding having to throw away the entire item.
Examining where the browning is coming from… literally… is another clue for checking an avocado. “Mold is generally the source of browning that begins at the stem end,” Braden adds. Despite the fact that the term mold might be frightening, she claims that even this form of browning isn’t a reason for worry. “Avocadoes may be infected by a variety of fungus, some of which enter by the stem and others through the peel. If mold spores are delivered to the blossom after it is pollinated, stem end rot may begin before the avocado has even developed.”
Is this to say you have to get rid of it?
Well, it is debatable. “If your avocado is brown at the stem, try cutting around it,” Braden advises. “While the mold will not damage you, it may alter the flavor profile of the avocado flesh, making the brown areas taste unpleasant.” It’s best to toss it out.
How do you keep an avocado from becoming brown?
“It’s ideal to put avocados on a shelf out of direct sunshine and away from excessive heat or cold while they’re maturing.” When you purchase avocados with Apeel protection, you have the added benefit of keeping their freshness and ripeness for longer without having to refrigerate them. “Apeel coats the surface with a tasteless, odorless, plant-based protection that helps keep moisture in and oxygen out, allowing produce to last twice as long,” Braden explains.
Looking for additional methods to make sure your valuable (and expensive) avocados don’t go to waste? We’ve got you covered. “When an avocado ripens, it begins to deteriorate, or senesce. This degradation may be reduced by keeping avocados away from fruit that releases ethylene, a plant hormone that causes ripening and eventually senescence in fruits, such as bananas and tomatoes, and by storing ripe avocados in the refrigerator, according to Braden. She does warn, however, that storing avocados in the fridge for an extended period of time might result in biochemical changes that alter the fruit’s taste.
How to know whether an avocado is ready to eat before you open it?
“You can typically determine whether an avocado is ripe by squeezing it between your palms and fingers.” It’s ready to eat if it has a little give to it. It might still be ripening if it’s too hard. If it’s too soft, on the other hand, it’s probably beyond its prime—but excellent for guacamole,” Braden adds. Branden says that inspecting the stem of an avocado may tell you a lot about its maturity, as shown in this TikTok video by user @athomewithshannon.
“When avocados are extremely unripe and hard, the stem end ‘button’ on the top of the fruit will be quite secure. “However, as the fruit ripens, this stem button loosens and pops out easily when the fruit is almost ready to eat,” Braden explains. Shannon Doherty also demonstrates how the color under the stem of an avocado might indicate its degree of ripeness—green = perfectly ripe, and brown equals not ready yet—in the TikTok above.
What does an avocado’s skin color say about its ripeness?
Braden warns against judging an avocado’s maturity only on the basis of its look and skin. “Avocado peel color varies based on the cultivar. Hass avocado peels, for example, get a dark purple hue when they mature. Other avocado kinds, such as Fuerte, don’t change color as they mature, instead becoming softer,” she explains.
Aside from avocado type, the quantity of sun exposure when growing on a tree may influence how the fruit develops. “They may acquire dark, even crimson streaks after harvest, resulting them an inconsistent ripening look.” This does not imply that the fruit is ripening unevenly or that the fruit is of poor quality. “These fruits may be just as tasty as the ones that seem to be “perfect,” according to Braden.