Avocado buying can be an incredibly frustrating thing. Sometimes you stand there, checking every single avocado, and find that none of them are ripe yet so your afternoon plans of guacamole are ruined. Sometimes you stand there, and can’t figure out which avocados are ripe and which ones are about to turn to mush. And sometimes you think you’ve waited jut long enough for it to ripen on the counter, only to cut it open and find that the inside is more brown than green and it’s well past it’s prime. The truth is, a squishy avocado is not necessarily a ripe avocado. But there’s an easy way to know if your avocados are underripe, past their prime, or ready to eat. The answer is in the stem. Or rather, the answer is under the stem.
A peek under the stem can tell you where your avocado is along the ripeness spectrum. If you see bright green peeking out and the stem is hard to remove, the avocado isn’t ripe yet. It’s at that annoying stage where it looks ripe when you cut it open but the flesh is still hard and a little waxy. A dark brown or black spot under the stem, with a stem that is falling off or has already fallen off, indicates that the avocado is starting to off, and will probably have at least some brown spots inside. If there are flecks of white mold under there, you’re done for, that avocado is mostly brown inside. But if the stem is pushed out a bit but not falling off and the part under the stem is yellow, or light to medium brown flecked with yellow, it’s just right to eat. The inside will be bright green on the edges and a deep yellow near the pit, creamy and soft all the way through. Once it reaches that stage, put the avocado in the fridge if you’re not eating it right away. It will slow the ripening and help your fruit last longer.
A word of caution on all this checking: once you take out the stem, that leaves an open spot for the avocado to go bad. That bit you see under the stem is just like any other part of an avocado, it will start to brown in the open air and that browning will slowly spread to the rest of the fruit. If you take out the stem to check an avocado, put it back unless you plan to cut into it within a few hours. And if you see avocados at the store without their stem, buy them at your own risk. Once the stem is out, that spot under it will turn dark brown or black within a few hours and you have no way to know what the fruit underneath looks like.