Everyone has had a batch of avocados that annoyingly just never ripen. They stay hard on your kitchen counter until you open them up and find them brown inside. Throwing away avocados has happened too many times for my liking, so I did some research to find out why.
Interestingly, avocados that are “ripe” on the tree are still rock hard. It’s the oils inside that soften them once picked off the tree.
Some avocados never ripen because they were picked too early from the tree. The longer the avocado stays attached, the more oil content it has. It is this oil content that softens the avocado once picked, so if it doesn’t have a minimum level then it will never fully ripen.
Another reason might be that they were stored in too cool conditions. This slows down the ripening process and may stop the avocado from softening at all. If storing avocados is required, it is better to ripen at room temperature and then move to the fridge to slow any further ripening. If the avocado is ripening too fast, you can take these tips to slow it down.
Let’s take a look at why this happens and the ways we can help our avocados to ripen.
Why Is My Avocado Still Hard After A Week?
Avocados are unusual in that they don’t ripen for eating until they are picked from the tree. That poses problems for retailers and consumers as they are ripening as they are being transported. Too quickly and they are overripe in the grocery store and too slow and they are too hard.
Hard avocados after a week could be caused by two things – either the avocado was picked too early or it was not stored correctly.
Picked too early
Avocados are technically ripe when they are mature on the tree, but they are still rock hard. More time spent on the tree results in more oil content in the avocado fruit. They need time off the tree, when picked, for the oils to soften the flesh.
The oil content signifies maturity and so the avocado should not be picked too early. In California, there is a law to say avocados must contain 8% oil before they can be harvested – “The purpose of this legislation was to prevent the marketing of immature avocados, which never ripen properly, but decay or shrivel up and become rubbery and unpalatable”.
Avocados that contain more oil, later in the season, will have that lovely buttery, creamy texture and flavor – that is literally the oils at work. Ones that have had less time on the tree, will be tough and rubbery – we’ve all had bad avocados like that.
That is the kind of avocado that is hard to mash. Avocados that are hard to mash were probably picked too early and so have too little oil in them to soften and become edible.
How long does it take for a hard avocado to soften? This also depends on how much oil was in the avocado when picked. With more oils, the avocado will soften faster – a week or so since picked. Younger avocados might need 2 weeks to soften since their time being picked.
Not stored correctly
Avocados that are transported are cooled to slow down the ripening process. Especially if they need to travel overseas to be imported into a country. Sometimes they are cooled too low or for too long, and this damages the natural ripening.
Or storage at home – the fridge will slow down the ripening of your avocados. It’s best to refrigerate avocados that have already ripened, as doing so before might prevent them from getting soft.
Sometimes the effects of cold temperature are reversible and a few days at room temperature with some other ripening fruit will get it back on track. Other times, the avocado will remain hard and will never get to its full potential.
What Do You Do With An Avocado That Won’t Ripen?
Place the avocado in a paper bag with an apple or banana. The avocado and the other fruit release a ripening hormone called ethylene. The bag will trap the gas and speed up ripening. You can also put it together in the fruit bowl.
While you can’t force an avocado to ripen, you can definitely encourage it to ripen. If the avocado was picked too early or transported too cold, then the flesh might never soften no matter how long you store it. But a few days next to a banana or other ethylene-releasing fruit definitely gets things going.
Once ripened, they can be placed in the fridge. This slows down further ripening.
Can You Eat An Avocado If It’s Still Hard?
You can still eat an avocado that is hard but the flavor will be poor and the texture will be rubbery. It might never ripen if you’ve stored it for over a week.
If you really can’t ripen your avocado, there isn’t much you can do to make the perfect guacamole you had in mind. The best thing is to use it in something where it isn’t the main ingredient – a smoothie or dressing is best. You won’t be able to mash it up, and it won’t have the taste you wanted. But here are 5 ideas to eat an unripe avocado just in case.
Is it safe to eat an unripe avocado? Yes, it is safe to eat unripe avocado as confirmed by an MIT Medical nutritionist. Although for some animals such as birds and domestic animals it can cause harm.
How To Choose Better Avocados At The Store
You can either buy ripe avocados or “ripen at home” types. If you live far away from anywhere hot, then the avocados have to be picked, cooled, and shipped to a ripening center. They are warmed up and ripened with ethylene so they are ready for the store.
If time is on your side, buy avocados regularly and allow them to ripen at home, which might take several days. A kitchen counter away from direct light and too much cold is best.
To pick a ready-to-eat avocado, the flesh should have a slight give when pressed in the palm, but it shouldn’t be mushy as this is overripe. Try to feel with the whole hand rather than indent with your thumb, as this can bruise the flesh and cause brown patches.
The small nib where the stem was is not an indicator of ripeness if it picks off easily. This isn’t part of the flesh and actually acts to prevent air from getting into the flesh. Picking this off will just cause the top of the avocado to brown quickly.
The Hass avocado (dark, bumpy skin) is the most popular worldwide. It is the most reliable because the thick skin causes less bruising. Especially important if they are being imported as transportation only ads to the bruising.
Tips On Picking Your Own Avocados
If you are lucky enough to have your own avocado tree, it isn’t possible to tell when they are mature enough when on the branch. So you should test by picking a few and leaving for 2 weeks at room temperature. If they soften well, you know the others are ready to be picked.
The avocados only ripen once picked, so the best place for avocados that you don’t need right now is on the tree. They will gain in oil content and become buttery and tasty.
This interesting video shows how avocados grow
Why Is My Avocado Hard After Being In The Fridge?
Avocados can remain hard if stored in a fridge or other cold environment such as while in transportation. The cold slows down the ripening process and can prevent some avocados from ripening, even when brought back to room temperature.
I’ve read that the fridge can also cause uneven ripening.
Therefore it’s best to ripen evenly at room temperature. If they need to be stored for longer, it’s best to refrigerate after they have softened. They will last several more days in the fridge.
In conclusion, I hope I’ve answered your questions about why some avocados never ripen. It’s down to avocado’s unique nature to ripen off the tree, which causes a headache for the supply chain.
Picked too early and the avocado has too little oil which helps the fruit soften. Stored too cold and this affects the ripening process too and might give you a hard avocado.
The best thing is to ripen naturally at room temperature in your kitchen. Once it’s ready to eat, I suggest you crack it open and enjoy it! Check out my post on making better guacamole.
Have any questions? Ask me in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you.
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