As delicious as avocados are, it must be said it’s not always easy to look at them and tell when they are bad. To help you decide whether your avocado is just from an immature tree, overripe or ready for trashing, I cover how avocadoes can look and smell when they are fine to eat but perhaps more importantly when they are turning bad.
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How to Tell If an Avocado Is Ripe
Unlike some fresh produce, avocados do not start to ripen until after they have been picked from the tree. Once picked, they then start to ripen quickly which is why they are best kept refrigerated to slow down ripening at home.
When checking an avocado for ripeness in the store, at the farmer’s market or even at home, just very gently squeeze the avocado with the palm of your hand rather than using your fingertips as finger squeezing is more likely to cause bruising to the fruit.
If the avocado does not give at all in your hand then it is underripe but if it gives slightly then it is ripe to eat. If a small indent is left after the squeeze, then this is overripe and is best kept for mashing up rather than slicing.
Some varieties of avocado change color as they ripen. Hass avocados change from bright green when underripe to dark green or even brown as they ripen. Generally, a Hass avocado with a near black skin will be overripe and a completely black avocado may even be a rotten avocado. Other varieties of avocado such as Fuerte or Zutano will stay bright green during ripening which means you cannot use skin color to judge how ripe they are.
When you buy any type of avocado, avoid buying one with cracks or mold on the outer as the odds are high that the mold may have broken through the skin and entered the flesh of the fruit.
When you cut into a ripe avocado its flesh should be light green although it may have some browning or bruising.
What Does A Bad Avocado Look Like?
When an avocado starts to over ripen, it will start to feel soft – like an overripe tomato – and the skin will start to appear dented or mushy.
When you cut into an overripe avocado, its flesh will be darker colored, and it may also have some bruising. Bruising is the name given to brown patches or spots that can appear in the flesh and an avocado which is bruised may not always be bad.
Occasionally, avocados harvested from younger trees may contain dark streaks through the flesh but the avocados themselves are ripe and fine to eat. You can just cut away the streaks or bruises before eating.
Similarly, an avocado can be fibrous depending on how it has been grown and avocados from young trees are often stringy until the tree matures (which may be as long as seven years). They can even be stringy from not being stored properly after harvesting.
Lots of brown spots or patches inside avocado or even black specks inside avocado is usually one of the main things to look for in bad avocados. As are signs of mold which may make the avocado look like a white avocado.
As well as looking at an avocado to see if it is bad, it is just as important to smell the avocado, although if you have spotted white or gray mold on or in the avocado then don’t bother sniffing it – just bin it as the mold may have penetrated throughout the fruit. As an avocado overripens, its smell will start to change from the pleasant and nutty aroma to smelling off and sour or even rancid. Any avocado which smells off should be trashed.
If you have had a good look at your avocado and are happy with its appearance and its smell, then just taste a little. If it tastes fine, then go ahead and eat it otherwise, if in doubt – throw it out!
Why Brown Avocado Does Not Always Mean Bad
As I showed in the previous section, avocados can contain brown bruising or even brown streaks and if there are no other signs of badness, these avocados are often perfectly fine to eat.
Once you have cut into your avocado, it will soon start to turn brown, just the same as when you slice an apple up. This is because when the flesh of the fruit is exposed to the air, oxidation occurs. Molecules called polyphenols in the fruit react with the oxygen in the air and enzymes called polyphenol oxidase and this causes the brown color to appear. Interestingly although the browning is not appealing, it actually helps the avocado keep for longer as the products of the browning process is toxic to the bacteria that would otherwise cause the fruit to rot.
So, you can eat brown avocado even a few days after you first sliced into it. The brown part may taste slightly more bitter and not look as pleasant – but it’s still safe to eat. You can mash it all up rather than slice it to disguise the brown flesh. You could also use up browning avocado in smoothies or salad dressings.
The early oxidation of avocado and indeed other fruits is harmless but as time goes by, the oxidation continues to increase until it damages the flesh of the fruit, changing its texture and flavor.
Once you have sliced an avocado, you can coat the exposed flesh with lemon juice and keep it in an airtight container such as a specially designed avocado saver in the refrigerator.
Can You Eat an Overripe Avocado?
As avocado ripens from the stem end downwards, even though it may be overripe there, the fruit may still be fine to eat further down. If there is no mold and it smells and tastes as it should do then just cut away the discolored parts and use the remainder.
You can use up overripe avocado in smoothies, guacamole or even baked goods but if you don’t really fancy eating it, then mash it up with some coconut oil for a nourishing homemade hair conditioner!
What Happens If You Eat A Bad Avocado?
If you have checked an avocado properly before eating it, the chances are you may not have eaten a bad avocado, rather it may be that you have acquired a foodborne illness or the avocado has acerbated an existing health condition.
Avocados should be washed thoroughly before using as there is a chance that the outer may be contaminated with bacteria such as listeria or salmonella which can pass into the flesh when the avocado is cut, causing foodborne illness.
Avocado is also a no-no for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding as it can affect milk production and can also cause an upset stomach for the baby.
For those who suffer with stomach problems or sensitivities, avocado can cause discomfort such as bloating and anyone with a latex allergy should not eat avocado as there is a risk of having an allergic reaction to avocado. Eating avocados can also increase hypersensitivity in those who are already hypersensitive and avocado reactions can be seen in those who are allergic to birch pollen.
If you have somehow managed to eat a bad avocado, then the chances are that you will suffer foodborne illness symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
To Sum Up
So, deciding when is an avocado bad is not always straightforward. The outer of an avocado should be free from mold or cracks and not have any deep or mushy dents. It may also have changed color depending on the type of avocado, but a Hass avocado will be overripe and potentially turning rotten when black colored.
When you cut into an avocado, although it may contain some bruising or brown streaks, the rest of the flesh should be light colored with no evidence of mold. It should smell like an avocado and not smell sour or rancid.In conclusion, although it is not always easy to tell when an avocado is bad from the outside, by sight, smell and even taste, you will be able to tell if avocado is bad and even if you have been through all the steps above and you are still not sure, then throw it out rather than taking the risk!