If you are ever in Coorg, visit the Evolve Back luxury resort. The Evolve Back Chikkana Halli Estate is one very beautiful resort – a 300 acre plantation paradise, perfumed with the intoxicating aroma of coffee and spice. On their estate, they have many fruit-bearing trees and plants – organic paddy, tapioca, tomatoes, beans, chilies, spinach and avocados. It might come as a surprise to many to know that the café does not use imported avocados, instead uses homegrown local ones. But, its true.
Avocados have been quite a happening fashion trend on Indian plates for a while now. Known for its healthy fats and vitamin profile, Avocados pack quite a nutritious punch between its firm shell and hard core. You could be having it as an avocado toast seasoned with salt and pepper, or making guacamole to go with your nachos, or blending it into your morning detox smoothie, or maybe just mashing it to mix into your face and hair masks, Avocados generally have something to offer to everyone – everyone who can afford to buy and consume them, that is.
With time, the love for avocados has grown, manifold. Most avocados in India are imported from other countries, especially, New Zealand, Peru and Mexico. Little do most of us know, that south India has been cultivating avocados all this while. Avocados in India are primarily grown in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and are commonly called as Butter Fruits in the belt. Avocados are typically sub-tropical and tropical fruits, and cannot tolerate colder climates. Owing to this fact, there is usually a year-round supply of avocados from South India. Avocados have their own local names too, which vary from region to region, such as, makhan phal (Hindi), benne hannu (Kannada), venna pandu (Telugu), vennai pazham (Tamil/Malyalam), mager nashpati (Urdu) and Alpukat (Marathi). A lot of restaurants, cafes, and resorts use these local avocados, often growing in their own backyards, giving them access to fresh produce.
Avocados are not really indigenous to India. It is believed that the fruit originated in Mexico, with the discoveries of ancient pits going back about 10,000 years or so. However, the fruit arrived in India sometime in the 1900s.
Quality of avocados is generally determined by the fat content of avocados – higher the oil percentage, better the quality of the fruit. The Hass variety of avocados from New Zealand is extremely popular because it contains about 18% of fat on an average. Compared to this, Indian avocados contain only about 12%. However, Indian avocados are nuttier in flavor and the flesh is firmer, provided they are opened and used at the right time. Timing is critical for using all avocados, actually. At Evolve Back, I have observed avocado chutney made by combining avocados with bird’s eye chili, smashed into curd rice to give the traditional south Indian dish a new twist or even make it into a delicious raita. Some places in Kerala also add avocados to aviyal, or even make it into a chutney to be eaten with dosa. I have often observed that avocados are more often used as a vegetable instead of a fruit in south India.
The biggest advantage Indian avocados have, is undoubtedly the price point – they are way cheaper than their imported cousins. Indian avocados are available at about Rs. 500 per kg, while imported ones come at around Rs. 1500 per kg or more. Another important advantage is the much smaller carbon footprint of Indian avocados, compared to the imported ones. Nutrition-wise both the avocados are quite similar. Moreover, Indian avocados have acclimatized to Indian climate and conditions, making it better suited for the Indian population. A conversation with Chef Ranveer Brar during the World on a Plate event in 2019, impressed upon me the point that every palate is best suited for ingredients that are local around that person. Each local ingredient – fruit, vegetable, cereal, spice, anything is acclimatized to the local conditions and thus, is best suited for the local population. Apart from the other factors, this is one of the most important reasons to encourage local cultivators. But lack of awareness is the major limitation for the acceptance and sales of Indian avocados.
In recent times, areas around Nashik and Pune, as well as in Sikkim are also seeing plantations of avocados. Local farmers are realizing the demand for this fruit and are beginning to invest in its cultivations.
Avocados can be incorporated into a lot of Indian dishes, and bring wholesome nutrition to Indian plates.
Here’s quick recipe for a delicious curried avocado, do try:
1 lemon’s juice
1/4 cup of coriander leaves
8 curry leaves
Salt to taste
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 garlic, minced
1/2 cup of chopped onions
1/2 tsp curry powder
2 green chilies, finely chopped
1. Cut the avocado into two. Remove the seed and scoop out the pulp.
2. Roughly chop the avocado.
3. Blend in the lemon juice, coriander, curry leaves and salt. Set aside.
4. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.
5. Once hot, add the mustard seeds and allow to splutter.
6. Once the spluttering stops, add garlic and sauté for 20-25 seconds.
7. Add onions and cook, sauté till brown.
8. Add curry powder and chilies. Mix well.
9. Continue cooking for a minute.
10. Pour in some warm water and continue cooking for a few minutes.
11. Add avocado mixture and turn off the heat.
12. Stir to mix all the ingredients.
This curried avocado is really super delicious. Do try and tell me how you liked it.