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Mango: Kitchen Basics

Mango slicedFannie Farmer’s cookbook has been around since 1896. It gets to the essence of mango preparation when it suggests: “Cut in half lengthwise and remove the stone. Eat with a spoon.”

That pretty much covers it!

The mango—many would say–is the world’s most delicious fruit. Its delicate flavor is a cross between a pear and an apricot. Or is that a cross between a melon and pineapple? Or is that a across between a peach and a papaya?

Well, one thing is clear, the mango is exotically tasty.

You can serve ripe mango slices in compotes, cakes, and tarts or alongside grilled or roasted meats and poultry. You can purée mango and use it as a base for sherbets, whips, ice cream, beverages, and dessert sauces. You can eat mango out of hand, peeled like a banana or on the half shell as Fannie Farmer suggests. Or you can gently roll and knead the mango until all of the pulp inside is mashed and liquefied then simply tap a hole at one end and suck the fruit dry.

Little wonder the mango is the most commonly eaten fruit in the tropics, as popular there as the apple is in temperate parts of the world. The mango is the most popular fruit in India, and in the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Mangoes are oblong, flattened fruits to 6 inches in length and perhaps about the same in diameter. Most weigh about 1 pound, although there are some mangoes that grow no larger than an egg and weigh as little as 6 ounces and others that grow to as much as 5 pounds/ 2.2 kg. There are 1,000 species of mangoes 500 of which are named varieties. Those numbers allow for many variations on the mango theme. For instance, some varieties of mango particularly popular in the Philippines are kidney shaped.

Most mangoes have green skins before they ripen to yellowish green to yellow to orange and rosy red blushed skins. The flesh of a ripe mango is yellowish-red, smooth, buttery, and aromatic. In addition to its tropical flavor, a ripe mango can be slightly tart and spicy. The flesh of a not fully ripe mango can be a bit stringy.

The mango has a large flat pit to which its flesh clings. The pit is best dislodged with a knife or the mangoes fleshy cheeks can simply be sliced away.

Mango fruit grows on a large evergreen tree that can reach 25 feet tall. Mango leaves are long, narrow and leathery. One mango tree can yield as many as 100 fruits in a year with fruit clusters usually ripening from spring to summer or fall to winter depending upon the variety. Fruits are ready for harvest 4 to 5 months after bloom. The fruits are usually picked when mature but still green.

Local season. The mango is harvested from mid summer through winter with the peak season from late summer through fall.

Choose. Select a mango heavy for size with firm, unblemished skin. Mangoes have shriveled skins before they ripen. A ripe mango will be plump and round with a skin that is slightly soft to the touch. Smell the stem end. If the mango is ripe it will have a sweet aroma.

Overripe mangoes will have black spots on the skin and have a fermented or sour smell. An unripe mango will be shriveled and stringy.

Amount: A 1-pound mango yields about ¾ cup of sliced fruit.

Store. Ripe mangoes will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The mango must be fully ripe before eating.

Ripen mangoes at room temperature until they become fragrant and yield to gentle pressure. To speed ripening, place the mango in a paper bag pierced with a few holes.

Green mangoes usually yellow as they ripen and red mangoes will turn redder when they ripen. One variety, ‘Keitt’, may remain green when ripe.

Mangoes do not freeze well.

Prepare. The best flavored mango is ripe. You’ll know a mango is ripe if it yields slightly to the gentle pressure of your thumb against its skin. A mango not yet ripe will ripen shortly at room temperature. Once ripe a mango will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

To harvest the mango flesh from the seeded half, peel the skin from the section and carefully slice the flesh lengthwise away from the seed. Mango flesh clings to its seed, so don’t expect the seed to pop out. You’ll need to pare the flesh away.Peel the mango before eating. Cut vertically all the way around the fruit with a sharp knife, peel back the skin then cut the flesh off the pit in long vertical slices.

Or, stand the mango up and slice off the top and bottom. Then cut off the mango flesh parallel to the pit curving slightly with the shape of the pit and remove the pit. Set the half mango peel side down and cut criss-cross slices through the flesh stopping at the skin. The cubes you have created can be removed with a fork.

You can enjoy mango out of hand by simply slicing it lengthwise with a sharp knife along each side of the mango’s long flat seed. Cut as close to the seed as possible until halved then set the seeded half aside. With a spoon, carefully scoop out the mango flesh from the seedless half in bite-size curved slices. For mango cubes, score the mango half crosswise without cutting through the skin. Gently push the cubes into a bowl.

Work with care because mango juice stains.

Cook. Firm-ripe mango can be sautéed.

Sautéing. Peel and slice then sauté until the slices are hot (about 3 minutes).

Serve mango:

  • Slice mango and avocado for a salad.
  • Mix slices or cubes with a spinach salad, fruit salad or ambrosia.
  • Serve slices on waffles or French toast or atop cereals or crêpes.
  • Sautéed slices can be served with grilled or roasted meats and poultry.
  • Serve with fish, and shellfish, poultry, duck, or squab.
  • Use as a savory vegetable cubed and braised with onions and spices over rice.
  • Use unripe in soups and sauces or as a vegetable to accompany meat or fish.
  • Combine diced mango with red pepper and red onion, cilantro, mint, lime juice, to make mango salsa.
  • Use in hams, mango pickles, and chutneys.
  • Use to make breads.
  • Drizzle slices with orange-flavored liqueur or top with sour cream and brown sugar.
  • Use to flavor yogurt, ice cream, and sorbets.
  • Make into jams, jellies, marmalades, coulis, compotes, and juice.
  • Combine with papaya and pineapple in compotes.

Flavor partners. Mango has a flavor affinity for apricot, avocado, chicken, chiles, cilantro, cucumbers, fish, jicama, lime juice, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, rum, seafood, star fruit, sweet bell pepper, and tangerine.

Nutrition. Mangoes are rich in vitamins A, B, and C and a good source of potassium. One medium-size mango has about 150 calories.

Mango facts and trivia. The mango is native to southeastern India where it has been in cultivation for more than 6,000 years. The name mango comes from the Portuguese name for the fruit manga which is an adaptation of man-gay the name for the fruit in the Tamil language of southeastern India.

The mango was introduced into Brazil from India by Portuguese sailors in the eighteenth century. Today, the mango is widely grown in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Mexico. It also grows in subtropical regions of the United States such as Florida and Southern California.

The botanical name for the mango is Mangifera indica.

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