Although avocados are available year-round, peak season is, in fact, late winter and early spring and there couldn’t be a better time to enjoy this buttery, nut-flavored fruit. They’re in ready supply, the quality is good, and the price is right. And yes, avocados are indeed a fruit, regardless of the fact that they taste like a vegetable and most of us think of them that way. The same goes for tomatoes, as well as tomatillos, eggplant, and even hot and sweet peppers, all commonly perceived (and used) as vegetables, but fruit nonetheless.

Speaking of fruit, the idea for this week’s column was actually inspired by a pineapple, and more particularly the words, “Costa Rica,” that appeared on its label. After eating (and enjoying) one of those super-sweet, “Golden” pineapples that are so well grown in that tiny country, I was hooked.

Hawaiian pineapples are touted as the best in the world, indisputably sweet and delicious (when you eat them in Hawaii), but for us on the mainland, they’re picked and shipped before they’re fully ripe?#34;the way they do bananas. But unlike bananas, pineapples do not ripen after harvest, so most of the Hawaiian pineapples we get are disappointingly sour. Costa Rican pineapples, on the other hand, are picked (and shipped) when they’re ripe. And so far, I haven’t had a bad one.

The Republic of Costa Rica, like other Central and South American countries, has become a valued trading partner and a source for much of the produce we get when our own produce is out of season. Sorry to say, much of what we get from some of those other countries looks great, but comes up short on taste.

So imagine my surprise, and delight, when I spotted a lavish display of avocados last week at the grocery store, all bearing a tiny sticker with the words “Costa Rica.” At the astonishing price of three (medium size) avocados for a dollar, I immediately snapped up half a dozen, some of which I ate only with a sprinkling of lime and salt. The others I later turned into one of the most delicious guacamoles I ever tasted.

Discover the Costa Rican connection and try my simple recipe for this popular dip.

Guacamole

Makes about 3 cups

3 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 small clove garlic (green germ removed),
peeled and crushed

1 ripe, medium-size tomato, cored and finely chopped

cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1 small, fresh green jalapeno or serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

3 ripe avocados

2 tablespoons sour cream

Salt to taste

Juice of lime

Combine the onion, garlic, tomato, cilantro and chile pepper in a bowl and set aside

Cut the avocados lengthwise around the seed and separate the halves

Remove the seed and discard

Scoop the avocado out of the skin with a tablespoon and place in a medium-size mixing bowl

Add the lime juice and salt

Mash with a fork to the desired consistency. I like it lumpy

Add the onion mixture and sour cream and mix until well combined

Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole to retard browning and refrigerate for about 1 hour

Serve with tortilla chips

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Frank Chlumsky

Frank Chlumsky, former executive chef of Philander's restaurant in Oak Park, teaches in Chicago at Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts. In his 37-year career, Frank has owned restaurants in Michigan...