How The Avocado Got Its Americanized Name

Americans are among the world's leading consumers of avocados, eating an annual average of approximately 9 pounds per person, according to a study published by ProducePay. This consumer habit trend is, however, a fairly recent development in the history of this strange fruit, which has only been called "avocado" since 1915.

It was in the spring of that year that a group of farmers got together at a hotel in Los Angeles to discuss the future of the avocado, which had until then been called āhuacatl, aguacate, and alligator pear. They saw an opportunity to grow and sell this green, creamy fruit to American consumers with the help of a marketing campaign that included changing its name to something more appealing and easier to pronounce for native English speakers. It was then and there that the word "avocado" was selected as a transliteration of the Spanish term "aguacate" which was first used in the late 1600s and derived from the original Nahuatl word "āhuacatl" of the indigenous people of Central Mexico.

The history of avocados

Research indicates that avocados have been eaten in Central Mexico for around 10,000 years and that the plant itself was domesticated by Mesoamerican tribes around 5,000 years ago. Around the start of the 20th century, this pear-shaped fruit still had not yet been commercially grown in the United States, but guests at hotels in Los Angeles had developed a taste for avocados as a pricy import. This led California farmers to attempt cultivating avocados to meet local demand. However, they felt it was key to distance themselves from the original name "āhuacatl" in part because it translates to "testicle," due to the way the fruit hangs off tree branches in pairs.

It was around 1926 that a local farmer grew the first Hass avocado. Though there are about 400 different varieties of avocados (including the long-neck avocado, which is the size of several Hass avocados together) this single century-old avocado variety makes up about 95% of all avocados eaten in the U.S. today.

Eating avocados in America today

It was about 100 years after the word "avocado" was first uttered that this fruit became the subject of a global food trend. A cafe in Sydney, Australia is credited with first putting avocado toast on a restaurant menu in 1993, but this simple dish really took off around the time that it appeared at Café Gitane in New York City in 2006.

All these years after the indigenous people of Central Mexico first domesticated avocados and California farmers devised a new name for them, there are countless ways to enjoy this fruit by any name. For those looking for something other than avocado toast, there are plenty of creative avocado recipes – from sides to salads to sweets — to enjoy at all times of the day. If you want to taste the flavor of the avocados themselves, try making a basic guacamole recipe. And, thanks to their unique texture, they can blend subtly into the background as the creamy ingredient your milkshakes are missing.