By Catharine L. Kaufman
Their sweet, aromatic scent will draw you into the produce aisle. There, mounds of golden beauties invite you to take them home, slice them open, and sink your teeth into the sweet, juicy flesh, beads of heavenly nectar dripping down your chin. Ahh, the ambrosia of the fruit kingdom – the heady mango! Here’s a primer on this tropical treat with a quiz at the end.
Mangos originated in East India and Burma, and have been around since the 5th century B.C. when Buddhist monks sang their praises and started touting them to peoples in Malaysia and Eastern Asia.
Today more fresh mangos are eaten all over the world than any other fruit with 20 million metric tons grown throughout the tropical climes. Although India is the leading producer of this revered tree (thought to grant wishes) Indians consume most of their crops, leaving the heavy exporting to Mexico, Brazil and South Africa.
The Medicinal Mango
The mango’s anatomy consists of the edible fleshy mesocarp, and the woody, flat endocarp or pit. Even though the leaves are toxic if ingested and the sap can cause dermatitis, every part of the mango tree from the bark and skin to the flesh and pit, has been concocted into folk remedies over the centuries to treat or prevent assorted ailments.
The lengthy list of medicinal properties attributed to the mango tree includes: anti-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-asthmatic, a cough suppressant, laxative, cardiotonic, contraceptive and aphrodisiac. The fruit is loaded with Vitamins A and C, fiber, antioxidants and potassium, and is low in fat, calories and sodium. Mangos also contain an enzyme similar to papain in papayas that aids digestion and soothes the tummy, giving a feel-good feeling all around.
Mangos can be enjoyed at every meal of the day and straight up as a snack — either fresh, frozen or in dried strips. Mangos can be blended in smoothies; tossed in oatmeal; or baked in muffins, breads, cobblers or pies. They can be pureed as a topping for ice cream, cakes or sorbets; made into chutneys and salsas to accompany chicken, duck or fish; tossed in seafood cocktails and salads; or made into a chilled soup.
Mangos can also be served with sticky rice, grilled and tossed in risotto or tabouli. Finally, make your mango a member of the cocktail culture – serve up mango margaritas, mango tango daiquiris, pineapple and mango rum cocktails and mango martinis.
Pick a Winner
Mangos are available from April to September, but are at their peak June and July, bringing better prices, too. When selecting a mango use your olfactory, scoping out a fruity, aromatic scent. Avoid ones with soft spots, blemishes or bruises, but choose mangos that give slightly to the touch. Depending on the variety, some mangos ripen to a tie-dye combo of raspberry, orange and yellow, like the Hadens, while the Ataulos become a buttery yellow hue, still others stay green even though they are ripe.
Mangos should be ripened at room temperature for about a week, or to quicken the process, place them in a paper bag. Once ripe, they can be stored in your refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or frozen, dried, cooked to a syrup or puréed.
Now test your Mango I.Q.
- Mango cultivators introduced the tropical fruit to America in the 1830s first to this state:
d) New Mexico
- When the mango is not yet fully ripe, the fruit is particularly high in:
a) Vitamin C
c) Vitamin D
- When the mango is ripe, this nutrient increases:
b) Vitamin B
c) Beta carotene (Vitamin A)
- The mango, a member of the Anacardiaceae family is mysteriously a close cousin to:
a) Pistachios and cashews
c) Jamaica plums
d) Poison ivy and poison oak
e) a, c and d
- There are this many mango varieties worldwide, the same number as the combined career homeruns hit by Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Tony Gwynn:
Answers: 1a, 2a, 3c, 4e, 5c
Sweet and Savory Mango Salsa
2 cups fresh mango, chopped
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 dup diced Persian cucumber
3 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from one fresh lime
Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
In a mixing bowl combine the ingredients. Refrigerate and enjoy with blue corn chips or as a condiment on sandwiches, burgers, grilled fish or other faves.
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