The perfectly ripe avocado has a short lifespan—here’s how to prolong it.
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It’s the rare trip to the grocery store when I’ll find an ideal avocado with almost-black skin, a bright green spot under its stem nub, and the same softness I’d feel if I pressed my fingertips onto my scalp. Instead, whether organic or conventional, single or bagged, they’re nearly always hard as stones or so soft that their skins are pocked and deflated like week-old balloons.

Naturally, I end up choosing the under-ripe ones, and the game is on. Sometimes, it takes just a day or two for them to ripen on my counter. Other times, it takes longer, and before I know it, it’s too late.

So what is the ideal way to store these precious little fruits that will allow them to ripen to their full potential? And what’s the best way to keep them fresh once cut? (Let’s be clear, I’m talking about Haas avocados, those that fit neatly into the palm of your hand, which account for 95 percent of the total California crop, according to the California Avocado Commission.)

How to Store the Whole Fruit

Turns out, the counter is the best place to store whole avocados if you plan on eating them within a few days. Allow them to breathe, and keep them away from things like bananas and apples. All three fruits produce ethylene gas, which accelerates ripening. (Of course, if you’re looking to accelerate ripening, stash a ‘cado in a paper bag; add an apple or banana if you’re really in a rush.)

Once ripe, or nearly so, you can put it in the fridge to extend its life by a few days (but why are you waiting so long to eat that avocado, anyway?). If you happen to buy a bag of them, and will only be able to eat a few at a time, pop them in the fridge until you’re ready—then put ‘em on the counter when you want them to ripen.

How to Store the Cut Fruit

Once cut, there are a few tricks you can employ to keep the flesh green. Brown flesh isn’t necessarily bad, per se, but it isn’t entirely pleasant either. If it’s bruised in spots or has black “veiny” streaks throughout, you can cut around those. Toss the avocado if it’s discolored throughout, however.

If you’re eating only half of the avocado, use the half without the pit first. While the pit doesn’t technically do anything to prevent spoilage, its presence prevents oxygen from getting to some portion of the flesh—and oxygen is what causes oxidation, or browning. Rub a little lemon or lime juice on the remaining visible flesh and then tightly wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap. You’ll get one, or maybe two, more days to enjoy it.

Avocados from Mexico suggests submerging the cut half in a container of water, covering, and refrigerating to get a couple days’ more life out of it, but I find a bit of the rich creaminess gets lost in the dunk. Avoid using olive oil or cooking spray, which, in theory, should create a barrier between the avocado and air, but neither is very effective, and they’ll leave behind unwanted flavor.

You can also try an avocado keeper, or you can reach for an onion. Place the uneaten portion of avocado in a reusable container (such as a half-quart takeout container), and add a piece of onion before sealing the lid and refrigerating. The onion could be a slice or a quartered wedge; it doesn’t matter. There will be a slight hint of oniony flavor to your avocado, but unless you’re using it in a sweet recipe or in a smoothie, you probably won’t notice it. This trick even works for a sliced or diced avocado—say, if you’ve made a week’s worth of mason jar salads; you’ll still have green avocado at week’s end.

And if you’ve gone so far as to make that most famous of avocado dips, guacamole, simply press plastic wrap directly on top of the guac, then wrap the bowl. Between that and the lime juice in the guac, it should maintain its color a day or two longer in the fridge.

So now, as far as the avocado game goes, I say, bring it on. This is a battle I don’t intend on losing anymore.