For most people, this time of year means cherry blossoms, longer days, warmer weather, or taxes. For me, it’s mango season. They hold a permanent place in my fruit bowl during the warmer months. There has been a steady trickle of the fruit with each and every visit from nana or nanu, since the first day my daughter uttered the word “am” (bengali for mango). And when the season’s first real ones came in, that trickle became a waterfall, with literally boxes of the golden treats coming through the door every week. Not complaining here. In fact, I feel kind of guilty. We have access to an exceptional source: Jackson Heights. Not sure why, even at the specialty grocery store here in Forest Hills, I haven’t found the quality or quantity available in my old hood.
There are three types of mangos available on the market (disclaimer: no scientific nomenclature here):
The traditional ones most Americans think of when they think of mango. Big, round, partially red, partially green. They have a bright, sometimes tangy flavor accompanying the sweetness. Buy them, let them ripen on the counter for 3 days and wow – deliciously delicious.
Secondly, these have become more popular in recent years. The smaller, more oval, yellow guys (some places call them champagne, others call them Alfonso). They have a more mellow flavor than the other two. The seed is very small so there’s more flesh to enjoy.
Finally, these big green guys hail from Haiti. You didn’t see much of them before but due to their bright, unique flavor, people are asking for them. You can find them more and more at your local grocery. They are a bit fibrous for some and like the other mangoes require some ripening on the counter before diving into.
General signs of readiness:
- As with most produce, give it a smell taste. If it smells like a mango, dig in.
- Slight wrinkles
- Black dots all over, sometimes with a little bit of dried sap at the top
- Gives slightly when you squeeze it
- The way they do back home: bite off a small piece at the bottom and suck all the pulp and juice through it. It gets messy.
- My favorite way: peel it with a knife or vegetable peeler and just go at it over the sink with all the glorious juice running down your arms.
- Score it: hold it upright on your cutting board and cut in the same plane as the seed, getting as close to it as you can. You’ll end up with two hemispheres that you can score with a knife (either into cubes or spears) and dig out with a spoon. This way is best if you have small mouths to feed.
- In a lassi. This is essentially a South Asian smoothie. I added some milk to thin mine out. Sweeten according to the batch of mangoes you have. Here is a basic recipe:
- 1 cup plain yogurt (not greek)
- about 1.5 cups diced mango or mango pulp
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup ice (optional)
- a dash of salt
- sugar or simple syrup