Have you ever picked up an avocado and discovered that there are brown spots on the skin? You might be wondering whether these spots prevent you from eating the avocado or mean that it is less valuable to you nutritionally.
Can you eat an avocado with brown spots? Yes. Brown spots should not usually indicate any problem with an avocado, although if your avocado is also mushy or slimy, it may no longer be good to eat. The brown spots can be caused by a variety of things, and as long as they are reasonably small and localized, they shouldn’t represent a problem.
What Causes Bruising on an Avocado?
A number of things can cause bruising on an avocado, with the most obvious being impact damage – especially if the avocado has been dropped or bumped at some point. Wherever oxygen can get at the flesh inside the skin, it will start turning the flesh brown. This is because melanin is produced.
Most fruiting trees protect the edible, soft flesh inside their fruits with an external skin. The thickness and toughness of this varies from fruit to fruit. For example, an apple only has a thin (and edible) skin, while an avocado has a thick, tough skin.
The skin stops oxygen from getting at the fruit and affecting the cell walls. However, if the skin is compromised by being bumped by something, it is not able to do this as well.
If you bash the avocado (or it gets bumped at the store before you buy it), the damage means that the skin is less effective at protecting the avocado, and as oxygen filters through the damage, that particular spot will oxidize more quickly.
The oxidizing process is a chemical reaction that occurs when oxygen comes into contact with certain compounds in the fruit’s flesh, and the two start interacting. The compounds are called polyphenols, and when they react with oxygen, they start to damage the tissues of the fruit.
This causes browning. The browning is not mold or bacterial infection: it’s just what happens when oxidization occurs. Although the cell walls are breaking down, they are not any more dangerous to eat at this stage.
Could a Brown Avocado be Dangerous to Eat?
It depends on how brown the avocado has gone, but on its own, browning is not a sign of something dangerous. Browning indicates that some damage has been done to the fruit, but it does not show that mold and bacteria have invaded the flesh.
Remember, the brown itself is just caused by the production of melanin, which is a non-toxic chemical. It does indicate that the flesh is starting to degrade, but it does not indicate that the avocado is no good to eat anymore.
If your avocado is still intact when the damage occurs (so the skin is still in place), the skin will protect the inner flesh from bacteria and mold as long as it hasn’t been actually broken. The seal is still keeping the fruit fresh.
If, however, your avocado gets gashed and the skin is broken when it gets bruised, it will not stay fresh for long. Mold will quickly start to invade, and then the avocado will no longer be safe to eat.
How Can You Tell If an Avocado is Safe to Eat?
You can determine the fruit’s freshness by gently squeezing it. In most cases, if it feels mushy and squashy, or has a funny smell, it is no longer good to eat and should be discarded. If it stays firm under a gentle squeeze, it is fine to eat.
When you cut your avocado open, smell the flesh as well. A sour or unpleasant smell will usually indicate that the avocado is no longer good to eat.
In general, a small amount of brown and just a few spots mean that the avocado will still be fine to eat. If, however, you leave the brown to spread and the damage continues, it will quickly go off. It’s a good idea to use up bruised avocados as soon as they are ripe enough to eat, because they won’t last as well.
As soon as an avocado’s skin gets compromised, you should try and find a way to use it up. You can cut out the bad parts if you choose to. Although they won’t hurt you, you might find that the texture is unappealing or the taste is not as good as the taste of the unbruised flesh.
What Causes Lots of Little Brown Spots in an Avocado?
If your avocado is not visibly bruised on the outside but has lots of little brown flecks inside when you cut it open, you might be very puzzled. How could this happen?
Usually, these little brown flecks are the result of cold damage. If you haven’t put the avocado in the fridge yourself, it may have been cold stored by the supermarket or during the shipping process. The cold temperatures damage the avocado’s vascular tissues, which are used to distribute water, nutrients, and sugar throughout the fruit.
These channels are usually invisible to humans, but when they have been damaged, they produce small amounts of melanin and create brown flecks in the flesh, which makes the channels show up.
Usually, damage to the vascular tissues will appear as little brown lines, but in the fat, it may look like tiny brown dots. Don’t worry about this, even if it looks odd; it shouldn’t really affect the avocado in its early stages.
However, if the damage progresses, it may spoil the flavor of the avocado after a while.
Can You Remove Brown Spots from an Avocado?
If you don’t like the brown spots because of the taste or the texture, consider simply cutting them out and enjoying the undamaged flesh as normal. There is no reason to eat them if you don’t like them.
You can safely eat an avocado with brown spots provided it is still firm and smells fresh. If the avocado tastes bad or has a strange smell, discard it. On the whole, however, a few brown spots are nothing to be concerned with.