Avocados have seen a surge in popularity—think avocado toast! But they can be dangerous. Anecdotal evidence suggests that emergency rooms have recently seen a surge in patients who sliced open their palms or fingers while cutting into these increasingly popular fruits. Actress Meryl Streep is perhaps the most prominent victim.

Unlike most fruits and vegetables, avocados have tough exterior skins but extremely soft flesh inside. People push down hard on knives to cut through that tough skin, only to have the knife slice very quickly through the fruit’s soft flesh…and into the hand that’s holding the avocado.

There are nerves, tendons and blood vessels very close to the skin of palms and fingers, so the damage can be extensive. Victims sometimes require delicate surgery followed by as much as three to six months of rehab before full use of the hand is restored.

Not long ago, bagels were the food most closely associated with these sorts of kitchen-knife injuries. (Like avocados, bagels tend to be tough on the outside but soft within.) Bagel injuries seem to be less common lately, perhaps because many bagel fans have purchased bagel slicers.

To safely slice an avocado without slicing yourself… 

• Place the avocado on a cutting board—don’t hold it in your palm.

• Cut until you reach the pit…then flip the avocado over to cut the other side down to the pit.

• Twist the fruit open to reveal the pit inside. And then twist the pit to remove it.

Be sure to use a knife that has a sharp blade—a dull blade could have trouble getting through the tough skin, meaning more pressure must be applied to cut it. More pressure means greater odds of the knife slipping—and an injury.

If you cannot be deterred from holding an avocado in your palm when cutting it open, at least hold it in a hand towel when doing so. The cloth of the towel may be sufficient to protect the hand should the knife slip. Here, too, cut down only to the pit, then flip the avocado over to cut the other side.