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Avocado's Color Key to Ripeness

November 07, 1998

Question: How do I know when my avocados are ripe?

M.G., Garden Grove

Answer: Unlike some fruits, which let you know that they're ripe by softening and dropping from the tree, avocados are a bit difficult to read.

To harvest at the right time, it's best to know the variety of the tree. Seven primary varieties of avocados grow in California; the Hass accounts for 90%. Its skin darkens as it ripens, and purple or dark varieties are usually mature when the fruit starts to turn from green to dark.

Rules vary for the other 10% of California-grown avocado types. Pinkerton avocado skin turns a deeper green when ripe; the skin of Fuerte and Reed avocados will remain green when ripe; the Bacon remains green but darkens slightly; the Zutano will retain its shiny, thin, yellow-green skin when ripe; the Gwen avocado's green skin will turn dull when ripe.

If you are unsure of your avocado type, take a fruit into a nursery for identification by a California Certified Nursery professional.

Or try this: Pick one fruit and wait for it to soften. If it does so without shriveling, the avocado was mature when picked. Avocados are ready to eat when they yield slightly when squeezed.

A Web site features photos of avocados: /aboutavocados/abou89.shtml.

Avocados can be stored at 40 to 42 degrees for five to seven days when ripe. Fruit can be ripened by storing at 65 to 70 degrees.

Fruit ripens best when stored in airtight containers that keep the fruit's own ripening ethylene gas in the container.

Have a problem in your yard? University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardeners are here to help. These trained and certified horticultural volunteers are dedicated

to extending research-based, scientifically accurate information to the public about home horticulture and pest management. They are involved with a variety of outreach programs, including the

UCCE Master Garden hotline, which provides answers to specific questions. You can reach the hotline at

(714) 708-1646 or send e-mail to Calls and e-mail are picked up daily and are generally returned within two to three days.

A UCCE Master Garden training course begins in January. Applications are being accepted. Call or e-mail the hotline for more information.

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