Mangoes are a tropical fruit, originating in India, where they were considered sacred. They come from an Asian tree called Mangifera indica. This tree is distantly related to cashews and pistachios and has been cultivated for thousands of years.
California is now a large producer of mangoes, so we are lucky enough to be able to find locally grown mangoes here.
Mangoes come into season in the spring and stick around until early fall. When purchasing, look for pieces with unblemished, yellow skin with a slight blush of red. A larger mango will have a better fruit-to-seed ratio. If you can only find green fruits, place the mangoes in a paper bag at room temperature and it will ripen, continuing to sweeten and soften from the seed outwards. Ripe mangoes can be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag for up to five days.
On the outside, mangoes start out green and gradually transform to a brilliant yellow and red as the fruit ripens. Inside, they are bright yellow-orange and extremely juicy. Mangoes contain some of the same flavor compounds as peaches and coconuts, and are both sweet and tart to taste.
The bane of all mango-eaters, though, is the large flat seed that makes the fruit difficult to cut up. One must find their sharpest knife and then artfully carve away to attempt to capture the most fruit. Recently, some genius has invented a tool specifically to cut mangoes. While Alton Brown may scoff at this "unitasker," the consensus seem to be that some find it a godsend, while others find it turns their perfectly ripe mangoes into mush.
Mangoes are so delicious, that it's hard not to just go ahead and eat them as they are with no preparation besides peeling and cutting. Ripe mangoes go great in fruit salads and they are also a common chutney ingredient. Ripe mangoes can be made into nectar, pureed or dried. One of my favorite snacks is dried mango covered in chile powder and sugar from a fruit stand in the Farmer's Market. I was not sure whether I would like this or not, but turns out that it is my crack. If I buy a bag, it's gone probably much more quickly than is really healthy.
Green mangoes are also often used in cuisine either by being pickled or dried and ground into a powder called amchur. Mango pickles were popular in 18th century England and are still popular today in Hawaii. Green mangoes are also used fresh in vegetable or lentil dishes and can be used to tenderize meat.
You can also throw mango in a salad for a refreshing hot weekend lunch if you want to feel a little tropical.
MANGO and AVOCADO SALAD w/ PEANUT DRESSING: This is a lazy person's version of a recipe from Bon Appetit. A Sandra Lee version if you will, since there's no making of anything involved. For my harried worknight version of this salad, I threw some mixed greens on a plate, artfully (I think, anyway) arranged slices of one avocado and one mango (both small) and drizzled a store bought peanut dressing over. I was even too lazy to chop my peanuts, so I just sprinkled whole ones over.
On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee
The Food Lover's Companion
|Saturday, June 16, 2007|