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Avocado Festival
updated: Aug 17, 2013, 3:00 PM

By David Powdrell

Ah, the avocado, the healthy fruit with local connections, interesting folklore and a fun local festival.

According to several sources, Judge R.B. Ord first introduced avocados to the United States in 1871 when he brought 3 saplings up from Mexico. These trees were planted on the corner of De La Vina and Canon Perdido Streets in Santa Barbara.

In 1895, Kinton Stevens planted 120 avocado trees in Montecito-the site of the first avocado orchard. Today, over 6,000 farmers grow avocados in California producing over 90% of the United States crop.

Research from the George Mateljan Foundation reports that the avocado has some important health benefits. Two key carotenoid antioxidants, lycopene and beta-carotene, increase significantly when fresh avocado is added to a salad. One cup of avocado increases absorption of carotenoids between 200-400%.

Avocados are sodium and cholesterol-free, according to their report. The typical avocado has about 30 grams of fat, but 20 of these grams are health-promoting monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid. I'm not going to sugar coat this article though….our old Labrador Retriever loved eating avocados that had fallen from a neighborhood tree. In the process, he got a bit portly. Everything in moderation folks.

Here's a quirky one….According to Laura Tsunoda's February, 2011 article in the Santa Barbara Independent, "The word avocado is rooted in the Aztec word "ahuacati", which translates to "testicle", so named because the ancient Mexican peoples believed in the fruit's sexual powers, thinking it able to induce erotic prowess and enhance fertility to the point that virgins were kept indoors during harvest."

On Superbowl Sunday, over 50 million pounds of guacamole will be consumed.

George Washington tasted his first avocado in 1751.

Avocados grow year round and don't start ripening until plucked from the tree.

To speed up the process of ripening avocados, place the fruit in a plain brown paper bag. Toss an apple or banana into the bag and the ripening process is accelerated. Apples and bananas give off natural ethylene gas.

Here's an award winning guacamole recipe worth trying:

Ingredients: 4 ripe Hass avocados, seeded and peeled, the juice from 3 limes, 2 medium tomatoes (chopped), 1 medium white onion (chopped fine), ¼ tsp. ground black pepper, ½ tsp. salt, 2 cloves fresh garlic (minced), 1/8 tsp. cumin, 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, pinch sugar, 1 Serrano chili (chopped fine) and 1 bunch cilantro (chopped). Place avocados in bowl and mash with a fork. Immediately mix in the remaining ingredients and serve.

Our little town of Carpinteria loves to celebrate the avocado with an entertaining, free, 3-day festival that runs from October 4 through October 6. Over 60 bands play on 3 stages, there's avocado ice cream and loads of other avocado-related booths. The annual guacamole contest brings out the best- of-the-best in local community cooks.

Hot tip: Grab the Amtrak train to Carpinteria and walk the few blocks up Linden Avenue. Make it a mini-vacation. I think you'll get a kick out of visiting our little town during the AvoFest.

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