Why It's Important To Buy Avocados With The Brown Stem Intact

Despite once being relatively unknown only a few decades ago, the avocado has skyrocketed in popularity and is now considered to be a staple food item. Today, nearly 3 billion pounds of this fruit — yes, fruit — are eaten annually in the United States, which is six times the consumption seen in the mid-80s. 

Considering how many are eaten every year, you'd expect people to have a better idea of when avocadoes are ripe. But alas, despite the impressive culinary versatility, it can be somewhat tricky to select the right avocado at the grocery store. Many of us know the frustration of picking one that seems perfectly ripe only to find brown mush on the inside, or mistakenly grabbing a rock-hard avocado and not being able to eat it for a week!

Similar to other fruits and veggies, shoppers can use some visual and tactile cues when scanning for the right avocado. Through well-earned experience, many of us understand how to gauge size and general firmness but we often overlook smaller yet equally indicative signs, like the avocado's stem.

What the stem says about an avocado

While there's a whole list of things to look for in a good avocado from the right color to a firm, but not hard texture, an intact brown stem should be at the top of this list too. This brownish button seen on top of the fruit — yes fruit, get used to it — actually serves as a seal that prevents air from penetrating inside and fosters the proper ripening process without excessive oxidation. So treat the avocado stem like it's the sealed lid or tab you see on other products with a warning label "Do not consume if seal is broken." This will help you avoid going home with an overripe avocado and possibly scaring off friends with brown guacamole.

This stem can also be used to gauge the current state of the avocado. Give the stem a gentle poke; if it comes off with a slight push or flick and underneath you see green, then it's probably ripe but if you see brown under the stem then move on. If the stem is very rigid and doesn't budge then it's likely not quite ripe yet, and it may be best to pick another one.

Armed with these new detective skills, selecting the right avocado from a heaping pile at the store is no longer a game of chance but rather one of skill.