Where do avocados come from?
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

History of Avocados


Avocados first evolved about 350 million years ago, along with other flowering plants like tomatoes and sunflowers. They're a kind of large berry that's native to Mexico in Central America. People probably began to eat wild avocados as soon as they got to Central America, about 20,000 years ago. We know for sure that people were eating avocados by around 8,000 BC. Avocados were valuable because they have a lot of fat in them, and Central America can be a hard place to find fatty foods to eat.

man eating guacamole with an avocado tree next to him
Aztec man with guacamole;
see the avocados on the tree?
(Florentine Codex, 1500s AD)

But these wild avocados were small, and most of the inside was taken up by the seed. There wasn't much fruit to eat on them. Once people began to farm corn, around 7500 BC, it didn't take too long before they got the idea that they could develop a better avocado too. Not long after 4000 BC, people were helping wild avocado trees along and breeding them to have bigger fruit with less of the space taken up by the seed. In fact, three different groups of Central American people began growing avocados about the same time, independently of each other. They might have started to grow avocados because of a climate change about this time.

Avocados mashed into guacamole

Some time later, people began to really farm avocados, planting the seeds in gardens near their houses. Traders brought avocado seeds south to South America. By the 1500s, the Aztec government was accepting avocados as tribute or taxes from areas of Mexico where people grew a lot of them. Our word for avocado comes from the Aztec name, ahußcatl, which means "testicle" after the shape of the fruit (compare the West Asian figs). Aztec people often mashed avocados into a sauce, which they called ahuacamolli - our word "guacamole" comes from this.

Learn by Doing - Making Guacamole
More about Latin American food

Bibliography and further reading about avocados and guacamole:

Guacamole Recipe
Chewing gum
Sweet Potatoes
Quatr.us home

Celebrating Black History Month with the pharaoh Hatshepsut, the queen Shanakdakhete, the poet Phillis Wheatley, the medical consultant Onesimus, the freedom fighters Toussaint L'Ouverture, Denmark Vesey, Yaa Asantewaa, and Samora Moises Machel, and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Proud of your class page, homework page, or resource page? Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Cool stuff we've been enjoying: Looking for birthday gifts? Check out these new Chromebooks - all the computer you need for only $229.00!. Then study in peace with these Beats wireless headphones - for the exact same price! When you're done, show off your presentation or watch a movie with this excellent smartphone projector for only $39.99!

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 27 February, 2017