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Modern Life

Features | November issue

What is Avo?

In his Summa de Geografía of 1519, the Spanish conquistador Martín Fernández de Enciso described the many strange things he had encountered while romping around the Americas. One yellowish specimen took his fancy. ‘That which it contains is like butter and is of marvellous flavour, so good and pleasing to the palate that it is a marvellous thing.’ The explorer had chanced upon the fruit known to the Aztecs as the ahuacatl; to later generations as the ‘alligator pear’, and to 21st century orthorexics as the avocado – or ‘avo’ for short. Perhaps we should have stuck with the Aztec name. Ahuacatl roughly translates as ‘bollock’. It was so named because the fruits dangle from the tree in pairs. The buttery bollock fruit was soon shipped back to Europe, along with other Mesoamerican exoticisms such as tomatoes, potatoes and chocolate. It seemed a fair deal. We gave them smallpox; they...

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