Much Ado About Mangoes

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Mango Fruit Salad

(See recipe below the article.)

I love mangoes*—sliced, blended, dried; naked or camouflaged in a smoothie; room temperature or chilled. No matter. They are one of my favorite summer fruits, which I enjoy eating over the sink, with my arms dripping from mango juice. Despite the fact that I am working towards being a “locavore,” that is, a person who eats food grown locally in season, I draw the line at mangoes. (*My New Oxford American Dictionary notes that both spellings—mangoes and mangos—are correct.)

While the mango originally came from Southeast Asia, this sunny fruit has been grown in Brazil and the West Indies since the (beginning of the)18th century, and then made its way to Florida, Hawaii, and Mexico by the end of the 18th century. The mango tree is an evergreen that grows to 60 feet tall and will bear fruit from four to six years after planting. There are 1,000 varieties of this wonderful fruit, but eating just one may turn you into a mango maniac. I already am!

Fortunately, mangoes are not only delicious; they are also good for you and can easily qualify for a food that earns my “Good Taste of Health” seal of approval. In fact, the mango is called the king of fruit, although because a ripe mangoâ€s flesh is juicy, I would say itâ€s more the queen of fruit.

According to one source (“Anatomy of a Mango,” WebMD, June 2006), just one half of a mango will provide 40% of the RDAs for Vitamin A and 15% of Vitamin C. That same 1/2 has 70 calories and as much as 20% of your daily fiber requirement. Mangoes are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but perhaps their best attribute is that the enzyme content in mangoes act as a digestive aid, much like the papain found in papayas. (Please read the note below for allergic reactions.)

Choosing a ripe mango is fairly easy. Donâ€t be fooled by the color, since a ripe mango can be red, yellow, green, or orange or some combination of these colors, although a yellow tinged mango is considered the best-flavored. Just press on the skin and if it yields to gentle pressure, itâ€s ready. You can also put an unripe mango in a paper bag to ripen. It also has a fairly good shelf life, about one to two weeks when kept at about 55 degrees in your refrigerator.

Peeling a mango is like tackling a pineapple or watermelon. There are many ways to cut and slice it. I score my mangoes in quarters, peel away the skin, and then slice it until I reach the pit, which can be small or large, depending on the variety and size of the mango. Or I cut away the quarter with the skin and then cube it. (Click on to see pictures on cutting a mango. Much of the information here is from this website.)

Any way you slice, mangoes are marvelous. Here is just one recipe, my mango fruit salad, because basically, I just enjoy them as is, whole and juicy and dripping with goodness and flavor! However, the mango website has other recipes for you to try. Just be sure your mango is ripe for superior taste. And if you can buy organic mangoes, so much the better.

Note: A Rare Reaction to Mangoes. Thanks to my friend Jackie for sending this to me from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In response to a recent Food Section feature on mangoes, loyal reader N.B. wrote to warn that the fruit has the potential to cause allergic reactions. While reported cases are rare, he notes that anyone highly allergic to either poison ivy or poison oak is susceptible. The cause, based on studies reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, lies in the sap of the mango skin. It contains oleoresins that cross-react with similar substances in poison ivy and poison oak. Exposure to mango skins or juice can cause extreme itching or a rash. Even secondary exposure by touch can cause contact dermatitis. From experience, N.B. offered this solution: “For many years my wife has cut the mango into little pieces, which I eat with a spoon, which causes me very few problems.” — by Marilynn Marter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 31st, 2006.

Mango Fruit Salad

Utensils: Cutting board, knife, bowl
Prep. Time: 10 minutes
Cook. Time: None
Category: Vegan if you use non-dairy topping

Note: You can use any summer fruits; aim for organic

one ripe mango, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
one-two kiwi, peeled and sliced (Try mixing the green kiwi with the golden kiwi)
one-two peaches, pitted and sliced
6-8 strawberries, sliced
Yogurt, sour cream, or non-dairy topping

1. Wash, peel and slice all the fruit into bite-sized pieces.
2. Toss gently and place in a small serving bowl.
3. Top with yogurt, sour cream, or non-dairy topping and enjoy!

Variations: Add nectarines, plums, or green and red grapes.
For a crunchy topping, use coconut or slivered almonds.

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