Photo: Tastyart Ltd Rob White / Getty Images

It's not uncommon to slice into an avocado and be surprised to find a small or nonexistent pit – but that doesn't mean the flesh isn't safe to eat.

July 19, 2017

Imagine carving into a perfectly ripe avocado and expecting the warm, familiar feeling of pushing your blade right against the rock-solid pit – only to slip through and come clean through the entire avocado. 

After a few curse words and a band-aid or two, your heart settles back into place and you find yourself wondering…is this thing safe to eat?

Well, my fellow avocado aficionados, I'm here to set the record straight: if you find yourself staring down a pitless avocado, you've just won the lottery because it IS safe to eat.

Don't take my word for it. Dr. Jonathan Crane, a research specialist in the Department of Horticultural Studies at the University of Florida and a designated tropical fruit specialist at UF's Tropical Research & Education Center, says you should feel lucky if you find a pitless avocado. 

"No, there's absolutely nothing wrong with those avocados," Crane says. "This does happen very rarely, but you should be happy if you encounter this, if you ask me." 

How rare, exactly? About one in every 100 avocados that find their way into your supermarket, Crane says, and this statistic grows higher if farmers who produce avocado crops choose to not cross-pollinate their fruits. 

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He shares that avocados are "genetically pre-disposed" to not bear regular-sized pits, or in some cases grow without pits at all, if they are purposefully not cross-pollinated. The producers who market their avocados as a "pitless" variation have chosen to forego cross-pollination, and thus a consumer can expect to usually find a smaller pit or no pit at all in that crop of avocados. 

Crane admits that there are many different varieties of avocados that consumers may come across that have smaller pits than an everyday Haas avocado, for example. 

If you come across a variation of avocado that contains a remarkably smaller pit seed than what you're used to, Crane says, this is also due to a scientific term known as metaxenia

"Metaxenia has to do with pollen's influence on the physical attributes of the fruit," Crane says. "It can have influence over the size, seed shape, or quirky features of any given fruit – such as the sugar apple, for example." 

But even within the most popular breeds of avocados, which are normally cross-pollinated and thus retain the pit seed size chefs and cooks are familiar with, you can find pitless variations as well as tiny seeds that you'd cut right through. That's because marketing teams don't often promote a clear distinction between a Haas avocado and a very close cousin, says Crane. But that small genetic difference, or how the farmer chose to raise the crop, can make all the difference. 

 Photo: Tastyart Ltd Rob White / Getty Images

Bottom line? Don't ever throw out an avocado that might have a smaller pit or is completely pitless. Count your lucky stars that you're able to enjoy this genetic miracle that has gifted you ample creamy and delectable green flesh to feast on. And best of luck finding the next one at your local supermarket.