There's a new menace wreaking havoc in kitchens across the land. And it's probably lurking in your fruit bowl right now. Growing numbers of amateur chefs are visiting accident and emergency departments thanks to our obsession with avocados.
Their affliction? So-called "avocado hand" – serious stab and slash wounds resulting from failed attempts at penetrating the fruit's tough skin, and slippery collisions with the inner stone.
Doctors say some cases even result in serious damage to nerve and tendon damage, requiring complex surgery, and some may never regain full use of their hand. Almost laughably, doctors have even reported a "post-brunch surge" in victims on Saturdays, The Times reported.
Doctors are now calling for safety warning stickers to be stuck on the fruit. “People do not anticipate that the avocados they buy can be very ripe and there is minimal understanding of how to handle them," Simon Eccles, honorary secretary of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, who treats about four avocado-hand sufferers a week, told The Times. "Perhaps we could have a cartoon picture of an avocado with a knife, and a big red cross going through it?”
While there are currently no hard statistics on the number of victims, there's good evidence that avocado hand is widespread – and not just the scourge of middle-class homes in Britain. Meryl Streep lost her battle with an avocado back in 2012 and was photographed with a bandage, and more than 300 people have sought compensation for avocado injuries in New Zealand in the past five years. The wife of a New York Times staffer recently fell victim to the buttery fruit, leading the paper to cover the issue.
But avocados aren't the only foods to be wary of in the kitchen, with popular brunch ingredients proving particularly hazardous. Bagels are notorious for causing similar hand injuries, especially when over-eager brunchers attempt to slice them while frozen. Sourdough toast, too, can cause jaw ache and wrist pain when attempting to cut it with a knife and fork.
Knives aren't the only kitchen appliances to watch out for, either. Fingers can easily call prey to a mezzaluna, used to finely chop herbs, or a mandolin, when you're shredding veggies for your summer salad.
How to cut and de-stone an avocado safely
It's as simple as placing the avocado on a flat surface with your hand on top and gently making incisions around the outside, Jeff Bland, executive chef at the Michelin-starred Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, told The Times.
When de-stoning, it may be worth wrapping the fruit in a towel if you're injury-prone, leaving the stone exposed, David Shewring, vice-president of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, told The Times. Then, "use the edge of a heavy sharp knife to chop into the summit of the soft pip, so that it is slightly buried. Holding the knife, so that the pip is stabilised, use a towel to twist the pip out.”
Because a mangled hand isn't a price worth paying for an Instagrammable brunch.