The Exotic Mango
Most Americans consider the mango an exotic fruit with the taste of a peach and pineapple. Although it is popular in tropical areas it actually originated in Southeast Asia or India where it has been grown more than 4,000 years.
Over the years mango groves have spread to many parts of the tropical and sub-tropical world, where the climate allows the mango to grow best.
Mango trees are evergreens that will grow to 60 feet tall. The mango tree will fruit 4 to 6 years after planting. Mango trees require hot, dry periods to set and produce a good crop. Most of the mangos sold in the United States are imported from Mexico, Haiti, the Caribbean and South America.
Varieties of Mangos
Today there more than 1,000 different varieties of mangos throughout the world. Mangos come in different shapes, sizes and coloring depending on the ripeness. The colors range from yellow to green to orange or red. They weigh as little as a few ounces up to a few pounds. All varieties have a very rich tropical flavor when ripe.
The most popular fresh fruit on the planet, mangoes originated in South Asia, where it was once revered as sacred. Every part of the mango tree and its fruit have been used in folk remedies there.
Many are surprised to learn that the mango is in the same family as cashews and pistachios. The sweet, yellow-orange flesh of a mango is packed with a powerful cocktail of 20 different health-protective nutrients.
Pick up the mango and check the area around the stem for plumpness and roundness. With the stem end up, smell the mango. If ripe, it will emit a fruity aroma. Avoid fruit that is very soft or bruised. Color is not always a good indicator of ripeness. The most common mango varieties turn yellow as they ripen, but other varieties can be ripe when green or slightly yellow.
Wash mangos carefully in cool water before using. To peel a mango, make four cuts through the skin and peel like a banana. Use a sharp knife to separate the fruit from the seed. Alternatively you can use a vegetable peeler: Peel the skin with a vegetable peeler, then cut a slice off the bottom so it stands up. Stick a corn holder in the top to hold it while you slice the flesh off.
Allergy note: People who are allergic to cashews or natural rubber latex can suffer a potentially serious "cross-reactivity" from eating mango due to similar antigens in the plants. And the skin of a mango can induce a rash in people who are sensitive to poisen ivy. The flesh is safe for them to eat; they just need to ask someone to take on mango-peeling duty.
To ripen a mango, store at room temperature. A ripe mango can be orange, yellow, red or green, but should be slightly soft to the touch and fragrant. Soften mangoes further in a paper bag at room temperature. Ripened mangos can be stored in the crisper bin of your refrigerator, away from vegetables, for up to five days.
Store mangos at room temperature and out of the sun, until ripened. The ideal storage temperature for mangos is 55 degrees. When stored properly a mango should have a shelf life of 1 to 2 weeks. While the mango will not ripen in the refrigerator, it can be kept chilled there once ripe. Store cut mangos in a plastic bag for no more than 3 days.
Cutting a Mango
- With a sharp thin-bladed knife, cut off both ends of the fruit.
- Place fruit on flat end and cut away peel from top to bottom along curvature of the fruit.
- Cut fruit into slices by carving lengthwise along the pit.
Download a free one page PDF file with complete instructions on How to Cut a Mango. (No strings!)
Mangos are delicious alone or paired with other foods. Use mangos in mixed fruit salads, ice cream and as exotic additions to meat dishes, stir-frys and omelets. Mangoes cozy up to salty and spicy foods, seafood dishes, robust red meats, salads and desserts quite well. Try mango muffins (see recipe link below) or mousse.
A one-cup serving of sliced mango is an excellent source of vitamin a and vitamin c plus 3 grams of fiber. In addition, mangoes provide a variety of antioxidant carotenoids like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, which lend mangoes the sunny color of their flesh.
Scientists have studied cancer-protective phytonutrients in mangoes and found that, compared to 8 other tropical fruits, ripe mangoes contain the highest amount of total polyphenols. Researchers recently analyzed mango juice and juice extract and discovered that certain compounds demonstrate antioxidant activity, cancer growth-halting activity and cancer anti-promotion activity.
- 1 cup sliced mango (about 1/2 medium-size mango) is only 107 calories
- Low fat
- Saturated fat-free
- Very low sodium
- High in vitamin A and vitamin C
Super Summer Treats
Mango Coconut Smoothie
Natural, cool, and refreshing, this beverage is a gentle vegan reminder of a mango lassi. You will need a blender or immersion blender and a chilled glass.
1 cup fresh or frozen mango
3 tablespoons of canned coconut milk 1/4 to 1/2 frozen banana slices 2 ice cubes
Blend all ingredients together, pour into a chilled glass (if not using an immersion blender), and then consume.
Mango Yogurt Milkshake
Blend 1 pint mango sorbet, 1 chopped mango and 2/3 cup plain kefir or yogurt. Top with chopped mango.
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