One of the more popular side dishes in South Florida is the Avocado Pear. Used widely in Cuban diets, avocados and the salad that Conchs from Key West make is enjoyed by many, and not just those in this area. Although they are high in fat content, these pears provide some of the essential fats and vitamins so they are in many ways healthier than most! Come on in and sit a spell while I tell you how we like our avocados. If you're a fan of the pears as well, then this recipe will be one you'll love!
What? It's not a vegetable?
While many tend to think so, the avocado is actually a fruit. It was first discovered by Spanish Conquistadores in the early 1500's growing from Mexico down through Central and South America. The Aztec's called them "ahuacatl" which was the word for testicle which the pear's shape resembled and considered them a fertility fruit. It soon grew favor with the Spanish and eventually others, but is a staple in Spanish cuisines.
The Conchs of Key West were fortunate when in the early 1800's, it's believed that the first avocado tree was planted in Florida by Judge Henry Perrine who had served as United States Consul in Campeche, Mexico. In recognition of his service, and to support his bringing tropical plants into the area, the government granted him a survey township of land in South Florida. Although the land, now known as Perrine sits about midway between Miami and Homestead, the judge made his residence in Indian Key Florida insuring that the trees and the fruit would make it's way through the keys to key West.
So what's the best way to eat these?
Like many foods, there's a variety of ways to eat avocados. Once ripened, the pears can be used to make guacamole, salads, or simply eaten by itself with just lime juice and salt . While fans of Mexican food know about guacamole, many are not familiar with other forms of eating it. The biggest problem may be getting them cut and prepared, but once you're familiar with that part, the rest will come easy.
Although avocados do not ripen on the tree, it is important to let them grow to full maturity. Once picked it's generally a few days to ripen, and they're ready to go when they have a slight give when feeling them, and should have a slight rattle with the seed inside. Make sure they do not feel too soft or else they could be badly bruised and inedible.
Next step is to take a sharp knife and slice through the pear until you hit the seed. Continue around the pear until you can remove the entire half intact. When properly ripened, it will lift off easily, and the seed should come right out. The outside skin is rather tough (in fact some call them Alligator Pears as my family from Key West did, due to the skin), but can be easily peeled off and discarded leaving the firm yellow and green flesh of the pear.
The family favorite, Avocado Salad.
Although some places serve Avocado Salad with onion or lettuce, the salad Conchs make is a bit different. Of course not the healthiest of ways, but our preference for sure. Some that have tried plain avocado think it's rather bland, but when prepared in a manner such as this, it's a wonderful taste that definitely grows on you.
One of the long standing jokes in the family came about when my daughter in her younger years refused to eat it. At the urging of her grandfather to just try it one time, she did and ever since has loved it. In fact, leaving her in charge of the salad bowl is akin to letting Colonel Sanders watch your chickens. If you want some, you had better be sure to get it the first time the bowl is passed around the table.
A simple salad to prepare, try it next time you have some avocados and see if it doesn't change your mind about the pear! Of course this is one of those dishes that no one ever used a recipe for, it was just one you made by "eyeing" the ingredients. If you're like our family, there's always room for more bacon and onion, so be sure to taste as you go, and you can always adjust as you go.
In addition to the avocados, the items you need are mayonnaise, onions, a little lime juice and bacon and you're all set. Prepare the avocados as above and the rest is as follows:
Dice the avocados into cubes (the pears vary in size but an average one should yield a couple of cups), and immediately sprinkle with lime juice (1 to 2 Tbsp.). Of course Conchs use and prefer key Limes, but any lime will do. This not only adds flavor, but will also keep your avocado from turning brown. Then add chopped onion (1/2 cup or so), and crumbled bacon (we like a lot, but add to your own taste, generally at least a half pound fried). Then add mayonnaise and mix until you have a nice creamy salad! Salt and pepper to taste and you're ready to enjoy!