Mangos are said to be the most widely consumed fruit in the world. Are you eating your share? Colorful and juicy, with a sweet, peachy, pineapple-y flavor, they're the perfect dessert fruit. In mango-growing parts of the world, you'll find people eating them much like an ice-cream treat, speared onto special mango forks (just stick the fork in the end of the mango, peel the skin, and take a big bite).
The world’s love affair with mangos isn't new, either. Mangos have been enjoyed for over 4,000 years and have migrated aboard many a ship—from India and Southeast Asia to Africa in the 1500s, on to Brazil in the 1700s, up to Florida's east coast and over to California in the 1800s.
The tropical stone fruit grows on an evergreen that towers up to 60 feet, with the first harvest coming four to six years after planting. India is the world's main producer, followed by China and Thailand, though many of the mangos sold in the U.S. come from Florida, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala and Haiti.
The mango offers a healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth. One cup of mango is only about 100 calories, and they're anything but empty calories. According to the USDA, mangos contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, fiber, vitamin B6, and copper. And a cup will provide all the vitamin C and 35% of the vitamin A you need in a day.
There are over 1,000 varieties of mangos (Mangifera indica), and they range from six ounces to as much as four pounds each. The ones you're most likely to come across include the following:
Ataulfo - vibrant yellow with firm flesh and a sweet, creamy flavor
Francis - bright yellow with green overtones and a spicy/sweet taste
Haden - bright red with green and yellow overtones, with a rich flavor
Keitt - medium to dark green with a pink overtone and a sweet, fruity taste
Kent - dark green with reddish tones and juicy, sweet flesh
Tommy Atkins - dark red with orange-yellow, mild and sweet
Images courtesy of the National Mango Board.
Shopping for mangos is a sensory pleasure. The stem end should smell fruity, and the ripe fruit should yield to gentle pressure. Plump is the ideal. Avoid mangos with bruised or damaged, dry or shriveled skin. You may be lucky enough to find mangos at your co-op year round, because they're harvested both in the spring/summer and in the fall/winter in different parts of the world.
While the fresh fruit is stellar, mangos are also delicious baked, poached or sautéed. They're used extensively in ethnic cuisines (think Indian, Malaysian and Thai) and are a natural for fusion dishes, where their cool sweetness dances off the spice of chili peppers, ginger and curries. You'll find them in salsas, pickles, smoothies and martinis, sauces and dressings, muffins, cakes, bruschetta, cold soups, ice cream and sherbet. Like papayas, mangos contain the tenderizing enzyme papain, so they work particularly well in marinades, too.
Mangos pair beautifully with grains, seafood, pork (try Roast Pork with Mango Chutney), and poultry (as in this Grilled Chicken with Mango Salad). A mango can perk up just about any salad. It adds contrasting texture and flavor in this Mango Avocado Pasta Salad. And it's the ideal complement to black and white beans in a Mango Bean Salad.
Almonds, peanuts, pistachios and macadamia nuts also partner well with the tropical fruit, as do berries, coconut, lime, papaya, and avocado. Mango also enlivens veggies, such as spinach, bell peppers, onions and yams. Consider flavoring your cool mango with warm spices, such as cloves, ginger, star anise, chili peppers, paprika, cardamom, salt, black pepper and curry powder. Find more ways to enjoy mangos.