Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Make room for mangoes

Americans are slowly discovering the world's favorite fruit

By Chuck Martin,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OK, we've got a brief respite, but the tropical heat is sure to return. And what tastes better in tropical heat than tropical fruit? How about a mango — golden orange, chin-dripping juicy, silky textured and exotically sweet — the world's most consumed fruit, eaten by more than half the global population.

        But as we know, Americans aren't like the rest of the world. Most don't know what a mango is, much less what it tastes like.

        Only 30 percent of American households eat mangoes, according to the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. And those who do, don't eat many mangoes. The statistics show that Americans eat, per-person, 1.6 pounds of mangoes a year — even less than puckery lemons — and far behind bananas, the most popular American fruit, at 31.4 pounds per person a year.

        That's changing, of course. Mango consumption has increased by 40 percent during the last five years. Growing Hispanic-American and Asian-American populations demand mangoes at the supermarket, and the fruit is available year-round all over the country at relatively low prices.

        Even in exotic places like Greater Cincinnati.

        Yes, this is prime time for peaches and berries and the other wonderful fruits of summer. Eat them, but make room for a mango, too.


        Mangoes probably originated in eastern India where the mango tree is considered sacred. The fruit was slow to spread beyond its native region because it is extremely perishable. Marco Polo missed mangoes on his travels, but a certain Friar Jordanus reported seeing them in 1349. Before then, around 1000, Persians brought the fruit to Africa.

        In the New World, mangoes were first planted in Brazil about 1700. They later spread to the West Indies, and then to southern Florida by 1825.

Where do mangoes come from?

        Most of the mangoes sold in the United States come from Mexico, followed by Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and other Latin American countries. Relatively small crops of mangoes are grown in Florida and California.

Nutritional powerhouse

        In terms of nutrients, mangoes are almost a cross between carrots and oranges. The fruit is an excellent source of cancer-fighting beta-carotene and vitamins A, C and D. Mangoes are low in calories and sodium, and contain no fat and cholesterol.

How to buy and store

        Look for fruit with unblemished skin blushed with red. The mango pit or seed is large, so the bigger the mango the more edible fruit you'll have. Sniff the stem end: A sweet, light scent usually indicates good flavor. A slightly sour or alcoholic smell means the mango is overripe and fermenting. To ripen greenish, firm fruit, keep in a paper bag at room temperature for a day or two. Hold ripe mangoes in a plastic bag in refrigerator for up to five days.

How to cook and eat

        Allen Susser, chef-owner of Chef Allen's in Aventura, Fla., wrote the book on mangoes — the Great Mango Book (Ten Speed; $14.95). He loves the versatility of the fruit. (Last week, he prepared Mango and Lobster Salad for a Julia Child birthday dinner.) Sweet mangoes make incredible desserts, drinks and pureed sauces. But the ripe fruit can also play off spicy and tart flavors in salsas and relishes. Asians and Hispanics use green (unripe) mangoes in chutneys and salads. Green mangos can be eaten out of hand, like an apple, although the skin is slightly tannic.

How to peel and seed

        One of the biggest obstacles for mango novices is figuring out how to get the fruit off the large seed. There's more than one way to peel and seed a mango. Here's one method:

        1. Cut through mango on either side of flat pit in the center, slicing fruit into three pieces.

        2. Use a knife to remove the peel from the section that contains the pit.

        3. Slide knife around both sides of the pit to remove attached fruit.

        4. Make diagonal cross-hatches on each of the two remaining mango pieces, slicing down to (but not through) the peel.

        5. Place your hand under each of the mango sections and push upward to invert the fruit; the cubes will rise and separate.

        6. Slide knife along the base of the cubes to separate them from the peel.

        Reprinted with permission from the July/August 1993 issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine. For a trial issue of Cook'Illustrated, call (800) 526-8442. Selected articles and recipes, as well as subscription information, are available online at

Many forms of mango

        Mango is available frozen, canned, as juice, nectar and dried. California specialty produce retailer Frieda's Inc. has introduced Dried Chile Mangoes, which are dried mango slices dusted with sugar and spicy chiles.

Midwestern mango?

        Many in the Tristate still refer to sweet bell peppers as “mangoes.” Even The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman; $29.95) acknowledges the misnomer. The term is so pervasive that some produce wholesalers and retailers label boxes “mango fruit” or “mango peppers” for clarification. No one knows how someone confused a pepper with a mango. Was it because bell peppers were once as rare and exotic as mangoes? Or was it because a bell pepper is about the same shape as a mango?

Don't touch the mango!

        Saturday Night Live comic Chris Kattan has helped popularize mangoes — at least the name — with his recurring character named “Mango,” an enigmatic exotic dancer who has flirted with the likes of Garth Brooks, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Mango doesn't like to be touched. No, no.



Mango Fool

        3 ripe mangoes
        2/3 to 3/4 cup powdered sugar, depending on sweetness of fruit
        2 tablespoons lime juice
        1 tablespoon orange juice
        1 1/4 cups cold, heavy cream
        Mint sprigs, for garnish

        Cut flesh from mangoes and peel. Puree mango in processor and add sugar, lime and orange juice. Cover and chill for up to one day.

        To serve, whip cream until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream with mango puree — blend thoroughly or leave streaks of gold through the cream. Pile fool into parfait or stemmed glasses and garnish with fresh mint. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Joy of Cooking (Scribner; $30)

Chicken, Avocado and Mango Salad

5 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
        1/4 teaspoon salt
       1 tablespoon peeled, minced ginger
       2 teaspoons grapeseed or light vegetable oil
       3 tablespoons minced cilantro, divided
       1 cup whole cilantro leaves
       About 4 to 5 cups torn lettuce
       3 mangoes, peeled and sliced
       3 roasted chicken breast halves, skin removed, cut or torn into bite-size pieces*
       2 avocados, peeled and sliced
       2 tablespoons minced red onion

        In large bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons lime juice, salt, ginger, oil and 1 tablespoon of minced cilantro. Add the 1 cup whole cilantro leaves and lettuce and mix well with dressing.

        Arrange dressed greens on platter and distribute mango slices over the top. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of lime juice. Arrange chicken on top and then avocado slices. Drizzle avocado with remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons minced cilantro and red onion over top. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

        *Note: Buy cooked rotisserie chicken breasts from grocery or prepare your own, by roasting bone-in, skin-on chicken at 350 degrees for about 40 to 50 minutes, until cooked through. Remove skin before slicing.

— Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Salad (Simon & Schuster; $16.95)

Mango-Tomatillo Salsa

5 to 7 medium fresh tomatillos, roughly chopped, or 6 ounces canned tomatillos
       2 tablespoons pineapple juice
       2 tablespoons orange juice
       2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
       2 teaspoons minced garlic
        1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
       2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
       2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
       1 large mango, peeled, pitted and diced small
       1 small red onion, diced 1/2 red bell pepper, diced small

        In blender or food processor, puree tomatillos, pineapple and orange juices, vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes, cilantro and lime juice. Put diced mangoes, onion and bell pepper in medium bowl, add puree and mix well. Makes about 1 1/2 cups. Serve salsa with grilled shrimp, fish, scallops, pork and chicken.

— Adapted from Big Flavors of the Hot Sun (Morrow; $27.50)

Mangoes with Lime and Ginger

3 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
       2 teaspoons minced ginger
        1/4 cup lime juice
       2 ounces rum
       Fresh mint leaves for garnish

        Combine sliced mango and ginger and mix well. Just before serving, pour lime juice and rum over mango-ginger mixture. Garnish with mint leaves. Makes 4 servings.

Big Flavors of the Hot Sun

Thai Steak and Mango Salad

3 cloves garlic, minced
       10 sprigs cilantro, stemmed (reserve stems)
       1 teaspoon kosher salt
        1/2 teaspoon black pepper
       3 tablespoons peanut oil
       12 ounces sirloin steak, trimmed
       Leaves from 1 small head of Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
       1 small, firm, ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced
       1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
       4 large green onions, including light green parts, diced


       2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
       2 tablespoons lime juice
       1 tablespoon soy sauce
       2 teaspoons minced red Thai or jalapeno chile
       2 teaspoons packed brown sugar

        In food processor, combine garlic, cilantro stems, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of oil. Pulse to make a smooth paste. Spread paste on both sides of steak. In large, heavy skillet, cook steak 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium rare. Remove steak from pan and cool.

        Cut steak into thin strips. Divide lettuce leaves among 4 plates and arrange the mango, cucumber, green onions and strips of steak on top.

        To make dressing, Combine all ingredients in small bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved.

        To serve, drizzle salad with dressing and scatter resered cilantro leaves over top. Makes 4 servings.

The Great Mango Book (Ten Speed; $14.95)

Mango Lassi

1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
       1 ripe mango
       10 ice cubes
       1 tablespoon superfine sugar (optional)

        In blender, combine yogurt, mango and ice cubes. Blend until smooth. Taste and add sugar, if desired, and blend again. Serve in tall, chilled glasses. Makes 2 servings.

The Great Mango Book


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