The mango is one of the most popular fruits in the world. In the tropics, it’s eaten with the same frequency that North Americans eat apples. If you haven’t tried mango fresh, you’ve been missing out on a nutritional taste sensation.
A distant relative of pistachio and cashew trees, the mango tree is an evergreen. Farmers cultivate more than a thousand varieties of mango trees in temperate climates around the world, including California and Florida, where the fruit is in season from May to September. Mangoes are picked green, but as they ripen, their thin, tough skins turn yellow, sometimes blushing pink or red. Inside, their sweet, juicy, golden flesh surrounds a large, flat, oblong seed.
Ripe mangoes yield slightly to pressure and have a pleasantly fragrant aroma. Avoid those with no fragrance (they were picked too early), large black spots that indicate damage (small black speckles are fine — they’re a natural characteristic), or loose or shriveled skin. Many farmers of imported mangoes receive a low price for their fruit, so buy mangoes labeled “fair trade” when possible. You can also find mango nectar and purée, or dried mango in strips or chunks.
Mangoes are rich in vitamins A, C and D and contain more carotenoids than almost any other fruit. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that support proper functioning of the immune and reproductive systems. Vitamin A is important for vision and bone growth, vitamin C helps with tissue growth and repair, and vitamin D helps ward off chronic diseases, including several types of cancers, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Mangoes also are high in dietary fiber, which makes them great for digestion.
In Latin American countries, the Caribbean Islands and India, mangoes are served as a street-vendor snack and are added to salads and other sweet and savory recipes. Enjoy mangoes’ bold, rich flavors by eating them fresh.
- To bring out flavor, chill chunked mangoes with a wedge of lemon or lime. Or purée them with a splash of lime to make a delicious, brightly colored sauce for desserts (like this coconut rice pudding topped with mangoes).
- The mango’s cool, juicy flavor complements spicy dishes such as curries. Like papaya, mangoes contain an enzyme that helps to marinate and tenderize meats.
- Combine mangoes with bananas, papaya and pineapple to make an elegant tropical fruit salad, or add diced mango to your cold cereal.
- Top a slice of ripe avocado with a slice of ripe mango and sprinkle with a little sea salt for a delicious hors d’oeuvre.
- Blend mangoes and shaved coconut with yogurt. Drink up — or freeze your smoothie creation in Popsicle molds for a refreshing treat or tasty drink.
- If your mangoes are green, you can place them in a paper bag for a few days; the trapped ethylene gas will speed the ripening process.
- To cut a mango, slice 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch off both the bottom and stem tip. Then stand the mango upright and slide a sharp knife along the edge of the seed to remove one “cheek” of the fruit. Repeat on the opposite side. Then you can create thin slices and remove skin in strips.
- To cube: Hold one mango half in the palm of your hand. With a small knife, make a series of 3⁄4-inch slices through the mango flesh lengthwise (taking care not to pierce the skin), then repeat crosswise to create a grid pattern. Next, flip the scored mango half inside out so the cut pieces pop up in a convex shape. Then you can easily slice the chunks from the skin.
Warm Mango and Pineapple Tart
Makes six servings
- 2 mangoes, peeled and cut into small dice
- 2 cups small diced pineapple
- 1/2 cup honey, divided
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, beans scraped out
- 3 cups rolled oats
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- For the filling: In a mixing bowl, combine the mangoes and pineapple. In a small saucepan, heat the honey and vanilla bean to infuse the vanilla flavor into the honey, about two minutes. Remove honey from heat and add 1/4 cup to mangoes. Reserve on the side.
- For the crust: In another mixing bowl, stir the oats and remaining 1/4 cup honey. Oats should stick together when pressed with fingers.
- Place six 4-inch pastry rings on a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Or spray an 8-inch cake pan with cooking spray.
- Using about 2 tablespoons of oats per ring, press into the rings to form a bottom crust. Spoon 1/2 cup of mango mixture into the rings and press down to remove any excess air. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of oats on top of mango to form the top crust.
- If using cake pan, press half of the oats into the bottom of the pan. Pour mango on top of the oats. Press down to remove any excess air. Sprinkle the remaining oats on top of the mango to form the top crust.
- Bake for 12 minutes or until oats are golden brown.
Makes 4 1/2 cups
- 4 cups chopped mango
- 1 tsp. finely shredded fresh mint
- 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice
- 2 tbs. finely chopped red onion
- 1/2 tsp. finely chopped jalapeño chili
- 2 tbs. finely chopped red bell pepper
- 2 tbs. finely chopped green bell pepper
- In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well.
- Cover and refrigerate for about one hour before serving.