I used to make fun of my girlfriend for calling avocado palta. Aguacate, a nahuatl word from the Persea americana plant’s hearth of domestication in Mexico, literally means “testicles”. It seemed much more appropriate for such a nutritious fruit, whilst Spain’s Royal Spanish Academy simply referred to Peru, Uruguay and Argentina’s word for it as a “meridional Spanish” term. It turns out that palta comes from Quechua and is the name of a people that used to occupy an area in the southern Ecuadorian Andes and northern Peru. When the Incas set out to conquer new provinces in the north of their empire between 1450 and 1475, they named this fruit of northern origin after one of the populations they had newly come to rule. I got a chance to hang out with a few of the family’s current day Peruvian members this morning. From left to right: palta injerta (a hybrid between palta fuerte and palta común), palta queen, palta nava (turnip avocado) and palta fuerte (strong avocado). Dark skin patches only signify ripeness, the fruit inside is fine.
Unfortunately, my favourite, Colombia’s palta morada (purple avocado) couldn’t make it and many of you living in North America and Europe likely already have some California-developed palta Hass in your fruit baskets. My pick is palta injerta, which is very oily and rich, though the nava is equally delicious if let to ripen well on its own or carefully monitored when using the newspaper-wrap accelerated ripening technique – it comes out rich but quite fruity and juicy too. Palta fuerte is also delicious but it seems to be the supermarket variety of choice, so I try to pick other ones. The larger varieties are generally more fibrous. One of my friends recently described herself as a palta addict. Though my consumption patterns can at times resemble hers, I reserve such superlative descriptions for citrus fruits.
*Güebon refers to an individual whose balls are bigger than their brain but it’s also used as an equivalent of “bro” in Peru, much like cabrón in Mexico.