The Hidden Color Code To Tell An Avocado's Ripeness

Avocados are notoriously finicky fruits that seem to have a mind of their own — and ripen on their own sweet time. One minute you could be digging through a tub full of rock-hard selections at the supermarket while trying to find that one perfectly ripe option, but the next thing you know, the green fruit is a rotten mess when sliced open just a day or two later, seemingly bypassing the window of optimum usability entirely and crushing all your creamy avo toast dreams.

Some avocados ripen overnight whereas others can take up to five days to get there, and it all depends on the stage they're at when they were purchased. But, there is help to discerning which ones to buy at the right time, like certain textural indicators that can help you know just by the touch. But did you also know there's a hidden color code to look out for (and it has nothing to do with the shade of green on the fruit's skin)? To use this tip, you'll need to lift off the tiny stem cap on top of the thin end of an avocado and the color you'll find underneath will indicate the fruit's ripeness.

What lies under an avocado's stem cap tells a lot

When avocados are plucked from the trees on which they grow, the area that was attached to the stem is marked with a small brownish-gray cap. While that cap itself does not reveal much information, how easily it comes off the fruit and the color waiting inside the indention will reveal a whole lot about an avocado's stage of ripeness. 

First, you'll want to pinch the stem cap and try to peel it off with your fingers; if it gives away easily and you see a shade of green inside, you're in luck — your avocado is perfectly ripe and ready to be eaten.

On the flip side, if you struggle to pull off the stem cap only to see a brown hue inside, the avocado is overripe and on its way to going bad which means you should only buy if it's going to be used immediately like an easy-to-make bowl of guac for that night's dinner. Finally, if you peel off the cap and see neither brown nor green but a whitish hue instead, toss the entire fruit because your avocado is very likely rotten to the core.

Other ways to check an avocado's ripeness

While the cap trick is a simple and effective way to gage an avocado's ripeness once you've bought it and are ready to use at home, it's not like you can just go popping the stem caps off every avocado you see at a grocery store when trying to hunt for the best ones to buy. It's time-consuming to say the least, and may even earn suspicious glares from fellow shoppers. Rather, there are other more supermarket-friendly ways to shop for ripe avocados.

The color of the skin and its texture are two of the biggest indicators to use. If you want to buy an avocado that is closer to the peak of its ripeness and ready to be eaten in a day or two, look for fruits that are dark green with specks of black on them. The skin should also feel bumpy and the avocado should be firm but just a little soft to the touch. 

If you want to pick an avocado that will keep for three to four days, look for fruits with lighter green hues and smooth, bump-free skins with a firmer texture. If an avocado gives away a little too easily when gently squeezed and feels mushy under your fingers, it's a sign that it's already past its prime and you'll want to go on to the next one.