Pity the poor avocado with its pebbly skin and big pit. The fruit well-known for its healthy fats has been getting a bad rep lately. And it’s not just because they are pricey or that avocado toast is now so mainstream.
It’s because people are injuring themselves while trying to slice them. And there’s a name for the injury: “avocado hand.”
These injuries are so bad that people are ending up in the emergency room.
It all started with a London Times report saying people were getting “serious stab and slash injuries that are the result of failed attempts to penetrate the fruit’s hard outer casing with a sharp knife before encountering a resistant inner stone.”
The London Times report talks about the avocado’s “outer casing” being hard as partially to blame. First, if the avocado is that hard, it’s not ripe, and you shouldn’t slice into it.
A ripe avocado will yield to gentle pressure when pressed with your finger. With the most common varieties sold at grocery stores, if the outside skin of the avocado is green, it’s not ripe. Period. The skin should be deep purple or almost black.
Rachel Rohde, an orthopedic hand surgeon at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., has seen several hand injuries due to avocado slicing mishaps in the past few weeks.
“I just saw one yesterday, and fortunately she didn’t need anything done,” Rohde said. “She had a poke from a paring knife.”
But, Rohde said, she operated on a person who needed nerve repair where her middle finger meets her palm. “She need a repair of a nerve that supplies sensation to that middle finger,” Rohde said.
Avocado hand doesn’t surprise Rohde.
“An avocado is like a bagel. We tend to hold it in our hands and then use a knife. And either when the knife slips or it goes through the avocado, whatever happens, we end up puncturing ourselves,” she said.
Rohde’s cutting advice is to cut away from the body no matter what you are cutting. “Put it on a cutting board and cut away from your fingers and don’t have your fingers or hand in the way,” she said.
Here’s the scoop on eating avocados.
▪ Buying: Avocados don’t ripen on the tree but rather when they are picked. A ripe avocado yields to gentle pressure, and its skin is pebbly and purplish-black. Once ripe, they will keep in the refrigerator (whole or uncut) for about three days. An unripe avocado has a pebbly skin but is hard and green. Buy these if you don’t plan on using them right away.
▪ Slicing: Insert a knife into the avocado until it reaches the seed. Cut around the seed, rotating the avocado with one hand and holding the knife with the other. Turn the avocado by a quarter and cut it in half lengthwise again. Rotate the avocado halves in your hands and separate the quarters. This makes it easier to remove the seed. Remove the peel from quarters and then slice or dice the avocado.
▪ Storing: To prevent discoloration, add lemon or lime juice to slices or mashed avocado. If you make guacamole and don’t plan on eating it right away, cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly on the dip. Stored this way, it will keep at least overnight.
▪ Using: Avocados are not just for guacamole. Mash and season and use as a spread for sandwiches. Slice them for salads and sandwiches. Puree them to add creaminess to smoothies or salad dressing. Dice them to add to salsa or mix with other tropical fruits like papaya and mango and serve with grilled chicken or fish. Drizzle slices with a little olive oil and sprinkle with fine sea salt and chopped cilantro.
Here’s a terrific salad recipe that pairs avocados, grape tomatoes and rice.
AVOCADO AND RICE SALAD
Makes: 5 cups / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Total time: 15 minutes
3 cups cooked white rice or basmati rice
1/2 green bell pepper, washed, diced
4 green onions, washed, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted, diced large
Salt and pepper to taste
Grape tomatoes, optional
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons favorite chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, peeled
In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, bell pepper, green onions and cilantro leaves. Add the avocado chunks and toss gently, taking care not to break up the avocado. Season with salt and pepper.
In a blender or food processor, combine all the dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Pour over the salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately, garnished with grape tomatoes, or refrigerate. This salad will keep in the refrigerator about two days without the avocados turning dark if it’s covered tightly with plastic wrap directly on it.
Analysis per 1/2 cup: 153 calories (53 percent from fat), 9 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 16 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 68 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber.