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Haitian Mangoes

The mango originated in Southeast Asia where it has been grown for over 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. Today there are over 1,000 different varieties of mangos throughout the world.

A comfort food, mangos really can make you feel better. Rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, mangos contain an enzyme with stomach soothing properties similar to papian found in papayas, which acts as a digestive aid.

Mangos are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of potassium and beta carotene. Mangoes are high in fiber, but low in calories (approx. 110 per average mango). Fat, (only 1 gram), and sodium. The mango tree plays a sacred role in India. It is a symbol of love and some believe that the mango tree can grant wishes.

Haiti grows and exports over 2.5 million cases of Mango Francis each year, with the USA getting most of them. The Hatian mango, also called the Francis, is a unique variety, available only from Haiti.

Haitian Mangoes Although they're always underrated, Haitian mangoes are my favorite. At our store we sell fifty crates of Tommy Atkins for every one we sell from Haiti. A Haitian mango is very flat and elongated, with a skin that starts out lime green and ripens to yellow. It doesn't look pretty, and the flesh is a little more fibrous, but I think it has the best flavor - an intense, tropical taste. It's a great winter treat in January, when the season begins, and it ripens very well at home.

Handle a mango very gently, as it bruises easily. Pick it up and very gently press your thumb against the flesh - it should have a little give and a really sweet smell. A very ripe mango will often have some black speckling outside; don't worry about that or about a little bruising, but avoid mangoes that are black all over - they're past the point of no return. I think mangoes that are a pound to a pound and a half have the sweetest taste.

Always use your nose when you're choosing mangoes. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a mango that smells wonderful tastes wonderful. If the stem end smells sour or acidic, reject it. If a mango is firm and green, it won't have any smell, but if it looks good, bring it home and ripen it yourself.

Leave a firm, unripe mango out on the counter a few days, until it colors, develops a sweet aroma, and "gives" when you press it very gently. Never refrigerate a mango. If you must have it chilled, put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes, but I think mangoes taste best at room temperature. In any event, storing a mango below 50ºF for any length of time will take the flavor out.

Preparing

Mangoes are great simply peeled and eaten as is or with a squeeze of lime juice. (Don't eat the peel - it's bitter.) Unlike some fruits, they're slow to discolor when they're sliced. They make a beautiful tropical salad sliced with pineapple chunks, kiwi, papaya, banana - just about any tropical fruit. I like to add a little squeeze of lime and some shredded coconut too. For a refreshing and very nutritious tropical drink, puree some sliced mango with banana, pineapple, and a squeeze of lime.

How to Eat a Mango

Mangoes are not freestone. They have a large stone right in the center of the fruit that is difficult to remove. Here's the best way to deal with it. Make two lengthwise cuts on either side of where you figure the pit is; if it's a flattish mango, turn it up so a narrow side is facing you. The pit is large but fairly flat, so make the cuts no more than half an inch on either side of an imaginary center line. You'll have three slices - the center one with the pit in it.

Now take the two outside slices and score the flesh with the tip of a knife, as if you were drawing a teahouses game. Get as close to the skin as you can without breaking it. Hold the scored slice in two hands and gently push up from the skin side, which will pop inside out. The segments of mango will separate and can easily be scooped off the skin with a spoon or table knife. Add a sprinkle of lime juice if you like.

As for the slice with the pit, you can discard it if you have the willpower. I personally find the flesh around the pit to be the tastiest part. All I can say is that the best way to eat it is to remove the strip of skin around it, pick it up with your fingers - and stand over the sink. Enjoy, enjoy!

Recipes

Mango Fruit Salad

Other recipes from Produce Pete.

   

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