Wednesday, March 9, 2011
You can slice it, juice it, blend it, salsa it, freeze it into ice cream, spoon chunks onto ice cream, curry it, can it, and bake it into a luscious dessert.
But…just what is the best way to eat a mango?
Naked. That’s right, naked, standing over the sink cupping a mango in both your hands and letting the sweet sticky juice roll down your chin onto your chest. Shower.
Public version: On a stick at the beach, with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of tajin, hands cheeks chin chest getting slick with juice. Plunge into the ocean.
No matter how you eat them, mangoes are sexy business. It is great when a fruit this versatile, this succulent and exotic can be good for you as well.
Mexico is the world’s major mango producer. From mid-February till the end of May, mangoes wreak delicious mayhem across this continent and beyond. Here in Huatulco, the first hint of Mango Madness appeared in early February. I was shopping at a local tienda when I heard light-hearted giggling floating up from behind the cashier’s counter. I peeked over, and there were three teenaged girls crouched down eating their secret delight…tiny mangoes, manganitas, scarred and flawed, the most imperfect, organic of all mangoes, the tiniest variety, just bigger than an apricot, and without a doubt, the sweetest. Their smiles said it all. The mangoes had arrived.
Huatulco’s geographic location gives it definite advantage in the mango growing world. Our climatic description is a tropical savannah, which, with its alternating wet and dry seasons, is ideal for growing towering mango trees with their big glossy leaves and fleshy orbs. Indeed, the major mango producing regions of Mexico are from the Yucatan in the southeast corner of Mexico and all the way up along the Pacific coast to Mazatlan.
Most mango varieties are oblong or kidney shaped, in varying sizes, ranging in color from bright sunny yellow to a deep, deep green. The color doesn’t always denote ripeness and readiness to eat. To choose a mango, pick it up and use your nose. Sniff deeply. It should smell peachy, pineappley, and very tropical, almost overripe. It should yield slightly under finger pressure, and I can tell you from experience that the very yellow plump ataulfa mangoes are best when the skin is a bit wrinkled but still a sunny yellow.
In Huatulco we get to taste a number of varieties of mangoes – the big, globe-shaped dark green ones, known as Oro Negro (Black Gold) yield the most meat, very functional and fibrous. The medium sized yellow kidney shaped ones are known as ataulfas, or manilas (it is thought that mangoes came to Mexico via the Philippines many years ago) and are sweet and juicy. Chiapas is the largest producer of the thinner kidney shaped criollo mango, and the sweet little ones are known as the dwarf mangoes or mango dominicos.
Mangoes a slippery little guys, and there are a few tricks to slicing them to get the most flesh away from the seed without cutting yourself. The mango seed is generally a long flat oblong; stand the mango on your cutting board with the skinniest profile toward you. With a sharp knife, slice off the mango cheeks as close as you can to the seed, and then trim around the seed to pare off the rest of the flesh. Slice the cheeks and peel each slice – enjoy! Peeling mangoes whole is an option, but they are very slick – in this case I recommend the clothing-optional method of eating them.
Besides their obvious musty delicious taste, like a bad girl peach, mangoes are sooooo good for you. Enough fibre to make you floss, a quarter of the daily recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C, and enough vitamins A, E and K to make a virtual vitamin soup. Their big selling feature is Iron, to which they owe their reputation as a libido enhancer, fortifying men and women alike, and with only 135 calories per medium mango, you can eat mangoes all night long and never gain an ounce.
Okay, time to get out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. From mojito to mousse, mangoes are one of the most versatile of all the tropical fruits. This is one of my favourite mango recipes.
Recipe adapted from An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof
The perfect dessert when you have an embarrassment of mangoes (and when you don’t you can substitute berries – blueberries, raspberries, strawberries – for some of the mango). The crisp is delicious with vanilla ice cream. Alternatively, serve with lightly whipped cream, lightly sweetened sour cream or yogurt, or crème fraîche (see tips below)
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger (good, but optional)
1/3 cup cold butter
For a crunchy topping, add a handful of sliced almonds.
6 cups sliced ripe mango (about 3 – 4 mangoes, depending on size)
1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (approx)
2 tbsp flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 2-quart (8-inch-square) baking dish
2. Prepare the topping: In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, nutmeg, and crystallized ginger. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside
3. Toss the mango with the lime juice. Combine sugar and flour, and toss with fruit. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired. Spread fruit in the prepared dish
4. Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 – 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is crisp and lightly browned. Serve warm
To make crème fraîche, combine 2 cups whipping cream and 1 cup sour cream in a nonmetallic bow, cover with plastic, and let stand at room temperature for 16 – 24 hours or until thickened. Refrigerate until serving
To make your own crystallized ginger, peel ginger, slice into 1/4 inch thick slices, and boil in cane syrup or sugar syrup for 20 minutes. Remove from syrup, drain, and roll in granulated sugar. Allow to air dry on a rack, then keep in a tightly closed jar.
Reprinted with permission, Random House Canada