How to Tell If an Avocado Is Bad: 6 Things to Look Out For

how to tell a bad avocado
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Inexperienced shoppers can have a hard time when it comes to picking out quality fruits and vegetables from the produce section. Given that the texture of every fruit and vegetable is different, there are many different signs you need to look out for while picking out fresh fruits and veggies and avocados are no exception.

Remember, nature makes the produce. People only facilitate their growth. And nature is definitely not perfect when it comes to making all of them. Any fruit or vegetable can be of considerably high quality compared to the one growing next to it.

But how do you gauge that? Seasoned shoppers, like my mom for example are able to discern the quality of a vegetable or fruit by just looking. I don’t know how they do it but I’ve come to realize that this is an essential art and something I need to learn- better late than never.

Especially, when it comes to Avocados, given my love for this delicious fruit that is both nutritious and versatile. Knowing when to eat this fruit is tricky and there are certain signs you need to look out for in order to avoid being disappointed. Here is how to tell if an avocado is bad.

Overripe Avocados

Overripe Avocados are not known to have any serious consequences and are generally safe to eat though unpleasant to taste. So, it’s best to know how you can avoid this disappointment.

Avocados only ripen once they’ve been picked off the trees but this process is actually quite quick. Once it ripens it’s only good for 2-3 days. After that, it’s likely to have a really unpleasant bite to it.

But a lot of the time this isn’t easy to tell. Here are 6 things to look out for and ways of gauging quality:

#1. The Gentle Squeeze Test

One way of telling if avocados are ripe is by their firmness. Before you pick them, feel the texture in your hand for some time and give them a gentle squeeze test. Don’t try to push your fingers into it though because that might cause the flesh to bruise. If the Avocado is firm and doesn’t contract at all, that’s an under-ripe avocado.

An avocado that’s ripe will yield slightly when you apply light force.”

If it’s just a little soft and the shape gives in a bit, the avocado is ripe and ready for consumption. If your fingers can make a small dent in its shape though, it might be too ripe for cutting and would be better served mashed.

If pressing leaves large dents like clay, the fruit is definitely over-ripe and likely gone bad. Do not buy avocados that already have big dents in them because it’s likely they’ve rotten from the inside.

#2. Examine the Color and Texture of the Skin

The skin color of the avocado depends on which variety it is. Hass avocados change from dark green to a dark shade of purple as they ripen. This variety is the most commonly found one and accounts for 80% of all avocados consumed worldwide.

Unripe Hass avocados have bright green skin with bumps on them. The adequate stage of ripening is when it’s somewhere between purple and black but if it seems only black then you’ve waited too long. The flesh has likely turned mushy and foul-tasting. You can confirm this by squeeze-testing the blackish ones if you spot them.

The other varieties namely, Zutano, Fuerte, Pinkerton, Reed, and over 500 more varieties retain their bright green skin even after turning ripe. You’ll just have to gently squeeze them or cut them open to gauge their quality.

#3. Examine the Flesh of the Fruit

It’s much easier to determine the state of the fruit by actually cutting into it although you’d have to buy it first. Nonetheless, say that it passed the squeeze test and you’ve purchased it. You still need to make sure it’s good to eat.

Fresh, good-to-eat avocado will have a bright green, maybe slightly yellow towards the center flesh color. Rotten avocados have brown/black spots all over them and it’s best if you throw them away.

Grim lines in the flesh is another potential indicator of rot although it’s possible that the tree they were plucked from wasn’t given enough time to fully mature. If you’re looking at grim lines in the flesh of the avocado, you’ll have to taste a small piece to make sure it’s still good.

An avocado that smells or tastes musky or unpleasant has gone bad.”

Perfectly ripe avocados have a creamy, slightly sweet flavor and the texture of butter but with more of a bite to them. Avocados are easy to chew so if you’re chewing on it too long it probably hasn’t turned ripe yet.

#4. Use the Stem

Another way to determine the ripeness of an avocado involves tampering with the stem a little so it’s probably best if you don’t do this with fruits you haven’t already purchased. But according to a lot of fruit merchants, the stem can be a useful indicator of ripeness.

Try pushing in or removing the stem. If it pushes in or comes out easily that would mean the fruit is ripe to eat. If it’s more rigid than that you can still buy them but you’ll probably have to wait a day or two for them to finish ripening.

By removing the stem, you can also get a peek at the flesh so it’s a way of examining the flesh without actually having to slice it open. The color revealed should tell you if the fruit is ready to eat or past its prime.

#5. Check for Mold

Mold occurs when the fruit is way past its useful life in which case you should discard it immediately. The mold on avocado is generally white, gray, and/or fuzzy. Don’t try to smell it though because you could have an allergic reaction to the spores from the mold.

Avoid buying moldy avocados because the mold on the exterior decays all the way to the center. If you split an avocado open and spot the smallest hint of mold formation throw away the entire fruit.

Do not try to salvage parts that don’t seem to have mold on them, it’s obvious the entire fruit has gone bad.

#6. Poor Taste or Odor

These criteria don’t help much before you’ve bought the fruit. Even if you’ve been careful about the firmness and color it’s likely the fruit has gone bad on the inside. Before you prepare any dish make sure to taste the avocado first, just a small sample to confirm if it’s good to eat.

A ripe avocado should have a moderately salty, nutty kind of taste that’s pleasing even in its raw state. Ripe avocados are also quite fragrant.

If the fruit tastes stale, mushy, and bad in general and/or smells bad, discard it. It’s likely that bacterial formation is responsible for this.

A more chemical smell can mean that the avocado is rancid. This occurs when microbes or oxygen breaks down the unsaturated fat content of the food. A rancid fruit is likely to contain many toxic compounds which can be dangerous for you. In cases of poor taste or rancidity again, discard the entire fruit.

The Bottom Line

Once you’ve had plenty of good avocados, you’ll get the general idea of what you need to look out for more subconsciously thanks to your olfactory memory. One encounter with spoilt avocado is enough to keep you vigilant the next time. These tips should help how to tell if an avocado is bad.

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Julie Oney

Julie Oney

Julie Oney holds an award in Creative Writing and a Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan. An optimist, music lover, and full-time writer. Passionate about pets, especially puppies.
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