Tropical Fruits Month:
Global Ingredient Profile
by Kate Heyhoe
Known as the queen of tropical fruits, the mango is probably the best loved tropical fruit worldwide. Buddha prized mangoes so much he was given a grove to meditate in. Indians consider it a sacred fruit.
Even the unripe (green) fruit is prized. Filipinos eat tart green mangoes sprinkled with salt or soy sauce. In Thailand, green mango slices are dipped in chile powder, sugar and salt as a snack. Grated green mango is used throughout Southeast Asia, India and Malaysia to add a tart flavor to dishes, especially in salads, relishes or as pickles.
Some describe mango as a cross between a peach and an apricot, with pineapple undertones, but mango really has its own flavor, which differs considerably among its many varieties and its stages of ripeness. Depending on who you listen to, there are between 40 and 500 species of mango. This evergreen tree, a member of the cashew family, is native to India and Malaysia, unlike the pineapple and other tropical fruits which migrated from South America to Asia. The Portuguese introduced the mango to Brazil centuries ago. Today, India produces most of the world's mangoes, but it is also grown throughout the Pacific Rim, in Mexico, Brazil, Hawaii, Florida, Israel and California.
More on Mango
- Mango, like papaya, contains an enzyme that is good for marinating and tenderizing meat.
- Dried green mango is known as amchoor in Indian cooking, and adds a pleasant tart flavor. In India, fresh mango also goes into chutneys, some sweet and some tart. In hot climates, Indians serve mango lassi, a refreshing drink of yogurt, mango purée, water and lots of ice cubes.
- Mangoes come in oblong, round, or kidney shapes, with a slight ridge on one side. Colors may be pink, yellow, orange and red when ripe, and usually green when unripe, but this depends on the species. The white varieties are yellow to green when ripe. The best way to select a ripe mango is to smell and feel it: it should smell pleasantly fragrant and yield slightly to gentle pressure. Flesh may be pale green when unripe, to vivid orange or yellow when ripe.
- If the fruit smells like kerosene, avoid it; these are commonly called turpentine mangoes. All mangoes do naturally contain some amount of kerosene, but the best tasting varieties smell aromatic and sweet.
- The peak season is May through September. To ripen a mango, place it in a paper bag at room temperature, checking on it daily to prevent over-ripening. Store ripe mangos in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Dried mango is available in natural food and ethnic stores; rehydrate it before using in sweet breads, pastries and desserts.
- Ripe mangoes are soft at the stem, fragrant, and juicy. Southeast Asians often serve them as dessert with coconut cream and sticky rice.
- Half-ripe mangoes are best for cooking, as they hold their shape better. Mango chutneys often use half-ripe mangoes.
- Mangoes are rich in Vitamin A, containing 20 times more of it than an orange. They're also rich in vitamins C and E.
Peeling a Mango:
Mango is a clingstone fruit, meaning the flesh clings to the seed and must be cut away. It's also quite juicy, so some dedicated mango-eaters recommend eating it in a bathtub.
To cut up a mango, slice off the cheeks on either side of the seed. With a small, sharp knife, score the inside of each cheek. Spoon out the scored pieces, or push the skin of the mango inwards to make the scored bits pop out, and bite them off directly. This is quite messy but effective; be sure to provide lots of napkins, or eat the fruit over a sink.
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