It is another season when the much-loved avocados are in high supply in the market, with consumers spoilt for choice.
There are two avocado seasons in the country, the current one which starts from March/April and the second one that kicks off in June. Both seasons run for about two months, with the first one involving the Fuerte variety and the second one, Hass.
Hass avocados are oval-shaped, have textured skin and when ripe, they are purple in colour, on the other hand, Fuertes remain green and have a smooth skin.
With the huge supply of the fruits in the market, prices have declined to a low of Sh5 for retailers and even much lower at wholesale. And quite a good number of fruits are going to waste for lack of market.
But as a consumer, seller or a farmer, you can profit from the current glut if you have some agro-processing techniques. These techniques will not only increase the number of avocado products in the market but also the shelf-life of the fruit and widen its appeal to consumers.
Below are the products you can make from avocados and how to go about it.
One of the best ways to enjoy the health benefits of avocado is making juice. It is an easy thing to do and the juice can be bettered by adding as many different ingredients as one wishes.
Mixing the avocado juice with almond, soy milk, or full fat cow’s milk will make it creamy. Fruits and vegetables can also be added to the juice to increase its nutritional value.
To make the juice, cut the avocado in half, deseed, scoop out the flesh and put it in a blender. Add sugar and any other fruits or vegetables for blending.
Pulse the mixture by adding in milk slowly until the desired thickness is achieved. Then blend until everything is completely combined, creating a uniform look throughout. Serve cold.
Ripe avocado fruits are first sorted and graded into categories based on their physical properties like size, shape, weight and colour to ensure one ends up with uniform quality.
The fruits are then washed in clean chlorinated water, and cut in half with a knife. The chlorine in the water helps to lower microbial load on the surface of the fruits.
Remove seeds and the skin and pulp the avocados to make a homogeneous paste using a blending machine. Ascorbic or citric acid is then added to the paste during blending to aid in inactivating enzymes.
Spices such as onion, garlic, pepper, coriander and salt can be added during blending to make a product called guacamole. When the blend is ready, package in clean disinfected glass jars or plastic cans.
To make the paste, mature ripe fruits are selected and washed in clean, chlorinated water. The skin and seed are removed, and then the fruit is cut in half.
The pulp is then separated from the peel manually. Spices, herbs, lemon juice and salt can be added at this stage. The next stage consists of high shear blending of pulp with water, gums, thickeners and spices.
The thickeners will increase the viscosity, making a thick paste, which is filled into clean polythene jars and frozen at -18oC.
Avocado frozen halves
The sorting, grading, washing, and peeling operations are the same as those used to make avocado paste. Then the fruit flesh is cut into two halves, which can then be frozen using a quick freezer, belt freezer, blast freezer or cryogenic freezer.
Frozen avocado halves are stored in a freezer at a temperature range of -25oC and -30oC. These products have a shelf-life of 18—20 months and a day or two when refrigerated after removal from cold storage.
It is important to consider the cold chain in the production-distribution of frozen avocado products to maintain their quality and safety until they reach the consumer.
This chain is established based on the fact that the frozen product must maintain a temperature equal or lower than -18oC throughout its entire commercial distribution process.
For good oil, the fruit should not be overripe and must have minimal rots or other post-harvest disorders such as greying due to long storage. The oil is normally extracted from the fruit mechanically.
First remove the seed and the skin and grind the flesh to a paste and then malaxed for 40-60 minutes at 45-50oC. A high speed decanting centrifuge is used to separate the oil and water phase from the fruit pulp.
The pulp from the decanting centrifuge and waste skin/seeds are returned to orchards for soil conditioning and mulch, or used as animal feed. The extraction of avocado oil is done at relatively low temperatures, which makes it cold-pressed, similar to virgin olive oil extraction.
Avocado oil extracted from fruits that have no blemishes give oil with a very low percentage of free fatty acids. The oil is excellent for frying owing to its unique properties since it is rich in phytochemicals, the major one being tocopherols and carotenoids, which have for a long time been considered to have anti-carcinogenic effect.
Based on its fatty acid make-up and the presence of these phytochemicals, extra virgin cold-pressed avocado oil is a healthy oil.
Dried, shredded and powder
Avocado halves can be dried as a whole or shredded into even smaller pieces. To achieve good quality dried avocado, freeze drying or vacuum drying are the best methods.
The dried halves and shreds can further be milled to avocado powder. This powder has many advantages as compared to the fresh fruit such as smaller volume and weight and ability to be stored easily without getting dark when exposed to air.
The powder obtained is characterised by its typical green colour and good mixing properties with water.
Avocado powder can be used in smoothies, ice creams and desserts, soups, spreads, sauces, dips and dressings, in ready-to-mix products, as a flavour ingredient, and in coatings for healthy snacks.
Avocado ice cream
The fruit is cut in half, seed removed and the pulp/flesh is scooped out. The fruit is then put in a blender and mixed with condensed milk or cream milk.
The mix is blended until it is smooth, that is, with no avocado chunks. The blended mixture is then transferred into a large bowl. Heavy cream is then added. Using a hand mixer at low speed, beat the mixture until it thickens.
Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat for about eight to 10 minutes. Add a third of the whipped cream to the avocado bowl and gently fold in until there are no visible white streaks.
Transfer the mixture into a tin, cover with plastic wrap, pressing down film onto the surface of the mixture. Finally, freeze for at least six hours or overnight until it firms. This ice cream is best served frozen.
The writers work at Department of Dairy and Food Science and Technology, Egerton University.
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Avocado is cultivated over a wide range of climates, with a 2,500m altitude above sea level being the most ideal.
The tree requires cool to warm temperatures, with the minimum not falling below 7ºC and a maximum of 20ºC (the optimum range is 15ºC to 25ºC).
Avocados are highly adapted to different rainfall conditions, however, the rain should be an average of 1,000 — 1,600mm per annum and well-distributed throughout the year.
An avocado tree needs to cross-pollinate with another variety for optimal fruit set. Although avocado flowers have both male and female flower parts, each part functions at a different time during the day.