National Guacamole Day is September 16, 2018. A recent poll showed that neatly 3 in 4 Americans love or like guacamole.
Guacamole has become a staple at parties, especially during popular sporting events. It’s estimated that Americans eat about 139 million pounds of avocados during Super Bowl weekend.
Millennials have taken some flack for their love of avocados, especially when using it on toast. But did you know: this is not a new phenomenon. There is evidence that people in the western hemispheres have been eating avocados for thousands of years.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Aztecs Ate Guacamole and the Name is Derived From Their Language
Guacamole dates back to at least the 16th century, when people in the Aztec empire used avocados to make sauces. The word “guacamole” comes from their language, called Nahuatl. Nahuatl is still spoken today by an estimated 1.5 million people in central Mexico. The Aztecs called the fruit “āhuacamolli,” which literally translates to “avocado sauce.”
Guacamole was a staple of the Aztec diet because of its high nutritional value. They also reportedly believed it was a natural aphrodisiac.
The avocado is native to south-central Mexico. Historians say avocados were growing in the region as far back as 7,000 B.C. It spread into South America as well. Archaeologists have discovered avocado seeds buried with Incan mummies in Peru that back to about 750 B.C.
Spanish conquistadors adopted avocados into their diet as well. They changed the name to aguacate because it was easier for them to pronounce. It became “avocado” in English. The first mention of the English-language version of the word dates to 1696, by Sir Henry Sloane.
2. Avocados Were Introduced to Florida and California in the 1800s
The popularity of guacamole spread into the United States in the 1800s. Avocado trees were first planted in Florida in 1833 by Dr. Henry Perrine. The trees blossomed in southern Florida, and there are now more than 50 varieties cultivated in the sunshine state. The majority of avocados grown in Florida today are in Miami-Dade County.
Avocados made their debut in California in 1871. Judge R.B. Ord was credited with planting the first trees in Santa Barbara. Other planters followed suit by importing trees from Mexico and central America.
Researchers are working to grow avocados year-round in California. The peak growing season is between February and September. The state produces about 90 percent of the avocados grown in the U.S. And while avocados have been eaten for thousands of years, the most popular brand was not developed until the 1930s. And it was by mistake!
According to researchers at the University of California, a postman named Rudolph Hass bought some avocado seeds in 1926 and planted them at is home in La Habra Heights, in Los Angeles County. One of the trees bore no fruit and Hass wanted to cut it down. But his children talked him out of it, and the tree was allowed to continue growing unattended.
Years later, the Haas children realized that the tree had produced something: a fruit with a more oily taste than traditional avocados. It had a thick, rough outer skin. But despite its outward appearance, Hass found be preferred the taste. Hass got a patent in 1935 and grew the trees in abundance. The Hass avocado did not take off during Rudelph’s life. But today, this variety is the most popular in the world, accounting for about 80 percent of avocados consumed across the globe.
3. Blame the Weather: Weak Harvests and High Demand Are the Reason Why the Guacamole Costs Extra
We’re all aware that it costs extra to add guacamole to your burrito. The reason for this is two-fold: the nature of how avocados are grown and the skyrocketing demand across the United States.
Harvesting avocados is difficult. The trees are “alternate bearing crops.” The California Avocado Commission explains that this means that one year, farmers will be able to harvest the crop in large quantities. That’ll be followed by a smaller yield the next year. One factor is that avocados require a lot of water. If California does not get adequate rainfall, that means fewer avocados.
Fewer avocados means higher prices, especially as demand goes up. Did you know: in 2017, avocado prices were up 125 percent. According to the American Restaurant Association, a box of 48 avocados used to cost approximately $37.25, in January of 2017. By September, the cost for the same box shot up to $83.75. For grocery store shoppers, that translated into a cost difference of nearly 30 cents per avocado.
And Americans have shown a desire to spend that extra money to get their guacamole fix. CNN Money reports that a typical American eats about 7 pounds of guacamole each year. A survey by NationalToday.com found that 38 percent of participants say spending extra to add the guac is “always worth it.” 27 percent responded that it’s worth it occasionally.
Chipotle is about to find out if people are willing to pay a lot extra for a lot more guacamole. The chain is rolling out a new large-sized guacamole side. Chipotle previously sold only 4-ounce portions, but now it’ll offer 8-ounce sides. It’ll cost double though: $4.10.
4. Avocados Are Rich in Protein and Potassium
One of the reasons avocados, and therefore guacamole, are so popular is because they are seen as a healthy choice. Avocados are high in protein and healthy fats. The fat included in avocados is called “oleic acid.” This type of monounsaturated fatty acid may help to lower blood pressure, help the body burn unhealthy fat, lower bad cholesterol and strength brain function.
Avocados have twice as much potassium as bananas. One avocado contains 975 milligrams of potassium, compared to 487 milligrams in a banana. Potassium is crucial to a healthy diet because it helps with nerve function, muscle strength and heart health. Guacamole also contains about 2 grams of fiber per serving.
If you’re trying to be healthy, guacamole is a good choice. It has fewer calories than ranch or sour cream. The common additions to guacamole are typically healthier, natural ingredients too: tomato, cilantro, onion, garlic and spices. Just keep in mind that eating huge portions of chips is not the healthiest choice.
5. Did You Know: Avocado is Fruit, Specifically a Berry
Here’s a fun fact for you: avocados are actually berries! Experts at the University of California explain that fruits fall into two categories: dry and fleshy.
Fleshy fruits are further divided into two subcategories: drupes and berries. Drupes have “stones” or “pits” as opposed to seeds. Some examples of drupes include peaches and plums. Berries, on the other hand, have seeds and a fleshy interior.