Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mango ~ an introduction ~

Meet my friend Mangifera indica, otherwise known as Mango. M’s another fruit with a long family history with some religious significance. They’ve been around for at least 4000 years, and they’re indigenous to India, making it fitting that Siddhartha meditated under mango trees in his quest to become Buddha. India’s hot, humid, tropical weather is ideal for this orange member of the cashew and pistachio family. It’s also why Hawaii is the perfect place for them too.

Back in Hawaii, people with mango trees in their yard would start picking them around May to make mango chutney. I remember my junior year of high school going to various houses to pick buckets of green mangos to turn into Punahou Carnival’s famous mango chutney.  Mango trees are huge and bear a lot of fruit, so most people were glad that the junior class would come by every year to decrease their yield. Because once those guys start ripening, they will fall off the tree and make a rotting juicy mess all around the yard if you’re not careful!

My family always ate mangoes fresh, but my Aunty L would occasionally make these mango cheesecake bars for our family that I LOVED. Little did I know back then that while I was eating a sugary dessert, they actually also had a lot of Vitamin C. Mangoes deliver about 80% of your daily Vitamin C needs per serving. They also have some Vitamin A, but only 25% per serving. One cup surprisingly only has about 110 calories. I don’t know about you but I always thought the fruit was more caloric than that since it’s just so sweet!

Tommy Atkins is the most popular cultivar in the US. Best from March-July then again from October-January. They originated in Florida back in the 1920s. They’re red with some green and yellow/orange sections, depending on their mood.

The Kent’s also another popular one here in the states. Sometimes it likes to put a little rouge on it’s dark green cheeks. These guys are sweeter than the Tommy Atkins and are best January through March, and again from June to August.

Keitt is the one you find most often in Asia. Best from August to September, and the sweet fruity flesh covered by a green skin is perfectly tropical.

Haden is big in Mexico, and naturally so with a bright red exterior with yellow and green accents.

Ataulfo / Champagne mangoes are also from Mexico.  These little yellow guys are very sweet and creamy. Delicate little buggers they are.

Francis comes to us from Haiti.  It has a bright yellow skin with streaks of green, and it’s sweet, with a little kick.

By now, I hope you can tell that color is not an indicator of ripeness when it comes to mangoes because they come in all different shades. The best way to tell if they’re sweet and juicy is to gently squeeze them. Usually they’ll smell mango-y too. I bought some sweet smelling, slightly soft to the touch mangoes myself so will return soon with my creations.

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