Avocados and the Tehuacán Valley

Avocados and the Tehuacán Valley

By Tim Hazell

The avocado (Persea americana), a tree with probable origins in south-central Mexico, is classified as a member of the flowering plant family Lauraceae. The fruit of the plant, also called an avocado or alligator pear, is botanically a berry containing a single large seed.

Native Oaxaca criollo avocados, the ancestral form of today’s domesticated varieties, may have originated in the Tehuacán Valley in the state of Puebla, Mexico, although fossil evidence suggests similar species were much more widespread millions of years ago. There is evidence of three separate domestications of the avocado, resulting in the currently recognized Mexican (aoacatl), Guatemalan (quilaoacatl), and West Indian (tlacacolaocatl) varieties.

The oldest discovery of an avocado pit comes from Coxcatlán Cave, in the Tehuacán Valley, dating back 9,000 to 10,000 years. The vast biodiversity of the valley, combined with the adverse conditions of a desert, gave rise to one of the largest and best documented cultural sequences in the Americas. Archaeological evidence reveals the long sequence of human adaptations that took place in the area for over 12,000 years. The Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley is an exceptional example of ingenuity, tenacity, and ancient technological evolution that defined the societal melting pot known today as Mesoamerica.

The arid conditions of the valley triggered innovation and creativity, originating two of the major technological advances of human history: plant domestication, which in the Tehuacan Valley is one of the most ancient worldwide; and development of water control technologies resulting in an array of management elements such as canals, wells, terraces, aqueducts, and dams.

Mexico produces about 34 percent of the world supply of avocados. Like the banana, the avocado matures on the tree but ripens after it is harvested. Avocados used in commerce are picked green and kept in coolers until they reach their final destinations. Avocados that fall off the tree ripen on the ground. Indoors, a shoot is usually grown from the pit of an avocado fruit. This elegant and simple recipe for baked eggs in avocado calls for chopped chives, but feel free to use other fresh herbs or toppings of preference. A dash of tomato salsa or hot sauce offers a hit of spice, and crumbled bacon makes a savory topping!

Baked Eggs in Avocado

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados

4 eggs

A pinch of black pepper and salt

1 tbsp. chopped chives

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425F. Slice avocados in half and remove the pits. Scoop out about two tablespoons of flesh from the center, just enough so the eggs will fit snugly. Crack an egg into each avocado half, yolk first; then let the egg whites spill in to fill up the rest of the shells. Season them lightly with pepper and salt. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of your avocados, taking care that the egg whites have enough time to set. Remove from the oven and add chives or the garnishes of your choice. Enjoy!