BiologyFoodScience & Nature

The Ghost of Evolution, or Why We Still Have Avocados + Guacamole!

Have you ever stopped to wonder about the avocado’s bizarrely large seed? How on earth this most scrumptious of plants could ever have propagated itself in the wild when swallowing such a seed could mean extreme discomfort when passing it or even death by choking?

Unlike many other plants we eat that humans have genetically manipulated over the years to make larger, more nutritious, and more delicious (such as corn and strawberries), today’s avocados are pretty much the same as their ancient ancestors. But it turns out that the animals that helped the avocado spread its massive seeds no longer exists.

To learn more, check out this post on Brainpickings that reviews Connie Barlow’s 2002 book The Ghosts of Evolution: Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, and Other Ecological Anachronisms and includes the following It’s Okay to Be Smart video about stinky ginko seeds and avocados:

Without an animal around that can eat avocados without fear of choking or asphyxiation, the avocado only remains because humans find it so goddamn delicious. In honor of our ancestors that decided this fruit was worth preserving, below are directions for how I usually make guacamole. Enjoy!



2 ripe avocados
1-2 cloves garlic, depending on size (and love of garlic)
1 lime
1 jalapeno
1 bunch cilantro
Fresh ground black pepper

1. Slice open the avocados long ways, twist apart, remove the seed, halve the halves, and turn the quarters inside out to remove the avocado flesh into a bowl. Here’s a video of how I do it (and yes, I do drop the pit on the floor):

2. Smash the garlic clove with the flat of your knife, finely mince, and add to the bowl.

3. Halve the lime, and (depending on how juicy your lime is) squeeze the juice into the bowl. (Start with just one half; you can always add more later.)

4. Using a fork, mash the avocado chunks against the side of the bowl to your desired level of smoothness or chunkiness, mixing in with the garlic and lime as you do.

5. Slice open the jalapeno, remove seeds and membranes, finely dice, and add to the bowl.

6. Chop a handful of cilantro off of the bunch, finely chop, and add to the bowl.

7. Mixing everything together, then taste. Add more lime if it needs to be brighter. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Featured image from the Brainpickings article. Guacamole photo by me.

Anne S

Anne Sauer is an atheist with an appetite for science, good food, and making connections between the two. She is currently pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her favorite foods are salted caramel ice cream and chicken tikka masala. You can find her on twitter @aynsavoy.

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  1. Thanks for this deliciously interesting post, Anne! The avocado is one of the best things ever. Sometimes I love it on toast with tomato and basil and pepperoncini.

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