Avocado mold on stem

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Avocado that’s turning brown might look unappetizing yet still be fine to eat. Rough treatment, air exposure and rotting can all lead to discolored avocados. Depending on the cause, the discoloration may affect the entire fruit, or just part of it, though the color alone might not tell whether or not it’s safe to eat. As long as it isn’t growing mold or bacteria, the discoloration probably won’t affect the avocado’s safety, and might not even impair the flavor

Cut It

For bruises or a browned surface, cut off the discolored area. If it’s a partial avocado, such as half a leftover avocado, cut 1/8 inch off of the cut surface to remove the browned part. If the discoloration is from mold, however, discard the avocado. Mold has a furry appearance and may look white or gray. Mold toxins can affect the rest of a soft food — even after you cut the moldy parts away — and these toxins can make you ill. Don’t sniff an avocado that has mold on it. Sniffing mold can cause respiratory trouble.

Smell It

When in doubt, assess the odor. Avocados generally keep in the refrigerator for three to five days, but if the fruit is bruised or over-ripe, it won’t last as long. Over-ripe avocados become brown with a black skin, and may have sunken areas where the skin is separating from the underlying flesh. Sniff the over-ripe avocado to check if it has a rotten or “off” odor. A sour taste or bad smell can indicate bacterial spoilage, and these avocados should be thrown out. An avocado that’s good to eat has a mild, pleasant smell.

Mash It

Streaks of black or brown through the avocado occur occasionally in fruit from young trees, according to the Hass Avocado Board. These aren’t harmful, and don’t affect the flavor of the fruit. Although these avocados won’t make an attractive garnish or salad topping, they taste fine and work well for guacamole.

Keep Them Green

Once the avocado is cut, air exposure causes the flesh to become discolored. This process is called oxidation. Drizzle lemon on avocado flesh and avocados mashed for dips and guacamole. Lemon or lime go particularly well with the mellow flavor of avocados; orange, tangerine or vinegar will also keep the flesh from changing color. Keep avocados tightly wrapped after cutting into them. Apply cling film or waxed paper in direct contact with the avocado’s surface to limit its exposure to the air.

We’ve all been there, standing over the vegetable aisle above the avocado stand, picking up random avocados, squeezing them, and even smelling them pretending like we have a clue how to find the perfect one. Well, you’ll be happy to know that after you read this article, you can say goodbye to these days and say hello to always picking the perfect avocado.

1. Decide What You’re Looking For

First things first, before you even start looking for those perfect avocados you need to know what a perfect avocado means to you right now. If you’re going to blend your avocado in your smoothie then your perfect avocado is a slightly overripe one that’s not firm in any way or form. If you’re making guac then an adequately ripe avocado is perfect for you. If you’re picking avocados to make in the next few days then you want to look for an underripe one so it doesn’t go bad before you get to enjoy it. Decide how many avocados you need and what condition you need them in so you’re picking the right ones for the job.

2. Color

Now you know what you need, so start first looking at the color of the avocados. Avocado skin can vary from bright green to really dark colored skin that’s almost black. Look for avocados that are more brown than green in color; the darker the color of your avocado the better. But, not black with white spots on it, that one’s pretty much missed the ripe train and heading towards “Rotten Ville” any time now.

Credit: The Avocado Experts – Westfalia Fruit

3. Check for Softness

I know you want to know if that avocado you just picked up is as ripe and soft or as hard and firm as you want it, but please for the love of Guacamole please don’t squeeze the fruit with your fingers. When you squeeze it you bruise the fruit causing it to turn in color on the outside. If you don’t buy that avocado you just squeezed someone else might see the brown spots on it and think it’s too ripe for them. So they won’t buy it either, causing it to eventually go bad. You can avoid this wasteful cycle and spare the poor innocent avocados by just placing the avocado in your whole hand and gently give it a tiny squeeze using your whole palm, not your fingers.

If the avocado is soft but still firm then you can use it today for guacamole, and maybe a smoothie or salad. If it’s really firm then you’ll need to get back to the first point we mentioned above and see what tasty purpose you want your avocado for.

4. The Secret Is in the Stem

If you look at the tip of your avocado, you’ll find this little brown thing sticking out of it, called a stem. Try to nudge it with your thumb to take it off slightly to take a peak to what’s underneath it. Now, look at the exposed skin underneath the stem.

Image Credit: Kelli Foster

  1. If it’s bright fluorescent yellow then this avocado is still not ripe. Wait a few days taking into account the color of its skin.
  2. If it’s almost a yellowish brown then it’s perfectly ripe and you’re a lucky happy soon-to-be-enjoying avocado person.
  3. If it’s blackish or has white fuzz coming out of it then this avocados’ ripe days are long gone.

Pro Tip: If the avocado you picked had its stem removed already then even if it’s hard as a rock, the exposed part won’t look bright yellow. This can be confusing to the non-avocado connoisseur, but you know better. If it’s brownish-yellow or a deep dark brown then it’s good to go. Just stay away from dark black looking exposed part.

That’s it, now you know the secret to buy the perfect avocado every single time. Hopefully, you’ll think of us next time you’re enjoying it on your toast or in your salad ( or in any of the 101 ways you can make avocados). You can send this to someone who’s always buying unripe avocados and never seems to find the right one, they’ll thank you later.

When is an avocado not safe to eat?

I cut out the brown spots and eat the rest. As for the strings, I find avocados with strings in them have deteriorated in flavor and do not taste good, so I usually throw them out. They are probably safe however. As to why the strings are there in the first place, here is what the California Avocado Board had to say:
Why does my avocado have strings or spots?
Strings or stringy fruit or the thickening of the vascular bundles (fibers that run longitudinally through the fruit) are generally the result of fruit from younger trees or improper storage conditions. Often times the fibers or strings will disappear or become less noticeable as the fruit (and tree) matures.
Flesh discoloration can occur when the avocado has been exposed to cold temperatures for a long period of time. Flesh bruising can occur in transit or as a result of compression caused by excessive handling. Unfortunately there is no way to detect either flesh discoloration or flesh bruising by looking at the avocado’s exterior. Damaged areas or spots can be removed by cutting them out.

Ripe or Rotten: Avocados


Look for darker green color, which may vary its shades, but usually the darker the color, the more ripe the avocado will be. The inside should have a deeper green color that still has brightness to it. Beneath the stem nub should be white or light green in color.

Light Green Patches: Avocados that have some light green patches, will probably last 3-5 days before becoming ripe and soft if refrigerated.

Medium Green: If your avocados are darker green, but not a truly deep color, they will probably last you a couple of days.

Dark Green: If your avocados are dark green, then chances are they are soft already, if not overly soft, and should be used that day.

Keep in mind that color is not always a factor because certain types of avocados have differing shades at ripeness. Some are a lighter green color when ripe, so the feel of an avocado will be the best indicator.

Feel + Flavor

Avocados at their peak ripeness, no matter their type, will have some weight to them. They should be be firm, but have a bit of give when gently squeezed. The shellfire of avocados will vary anywhere from 3-5 days, if rock hard, but should be used within the day if they’re on the soft side.

For dicing, use avocados with a firmer feel, while the softer they get, the better they are for dishes like guacamole.

Over-Ripe Avocados

Sometimes an avocado has the right look and feel, but when you cut it open you find that it’s not thebeautiful yellow-green color you were hoping for. Depending on what’s causing the color discrepancy, your avocado may still be edible. Check out what may be just causing these problems.

Exposure To Air

Avocados start to turn brown after you cut them open due to oxidation. If this has happened to yours, just remove the discolored part and eat on. To get some ideas of how you can prevent this, check this out.


You don’t always know where your avocados have been before you decide to take them home. Many times mishandling can cause the avocados to bruise, leaving you with brown patches on the skin and flesh. To prevent bruising, handle and store with care. Avoid placing items on top of them and storing on shelving with slats or grooves because the weight of the avocado over time may slowly push through causing it to bruise. If the avocado has just slight bruising, you can remove the discolored part and eat the rest.

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