Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere


By Hugh Murphy

Persea americana

The avocado is a tree fruit native to the tropical regions of North, Central and South America.  The bell shaped fruit is comprised of a large pit, surrounded by thick, creamy flesh and covered by a tough green, purple or black skin.  Its flesh contains larger amounts of fiber, oil and protein than another other fruit (Davidson, 43; Werman, 132).      

The name, avocado, came from the Aztec word, ahuacatl.  The plant likely originated in southern Mexico and Ecuador before spreading throughout Mexico, Central and South America (Brand, 116). The avocado's high fat and protein content have made it a highly-valued food among indigenous people for thousands of years, and its taste made it popular fare among early European explorers.  Archaeological excavations have turned up evidence suggesting that the avocado has been cultivated in Mexico and Central America for over 7,000 years (Davidson, 43).  And, seeds from the plant have been discovered buried alongside Incan mummies dating back to 750 B.C. (

Perhaps the most popular use of the avocado today, originated with the Aztecs.  Guacamole is a thick sauce or dip whose primary ingredient is mashed avocado.  The Aztecs created guacamole or ahuaca-mulli (, by mixing chopped onions, tomatoes and spices into a base of mashed avocado Davidson, 43). It is a recipe that has survived for thousands of years.


History of the Avocado

Fun Facts about the Avocado

Avocado Photos


Brand, Donald D. “The Origin and Early Distribution of New World Cultivated Plants.” Agricultural History. Vol. 13, No. 2. April, 1939.

Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University press,  1999.

Naveh E, Werman MJ, Sabo E, Neeman I. "Defatted avocado pulp reduces body weight and total hepatic fat but increases plasma cholesterol in male rats fed diets with cholesterol". J. Nutr. 132 (7). 2002.