Mangifera indica

Distantly related to the cashew and pistachio, mangoes originated in southern Asia, especially Burma and eastern India, then spreading to Malaya, eastern Asia and eastern Africa. Mangoes first arrived in Santa Barbara, California in 1880. Two races of mangoes exist, from India and from South East Asia and the Philippines. The Indian mango is intolerant of humidity and bears monoembryonic fruit of high color and regular form. The Filipino Mango tolerates humidity reasonably well and bears pale green, elongated-kidney-shaped polyembryonic fruit. Filipino mangoes grow best in California, and are the most common in produce aisles of the USA.

Mangoes have a long, stringlike stem. Two or more fruits can grow from a stem. Two to nine inches long and sometimes kidney shaped, ovate or (rarely) round, they range in size from 8 to 24 ounces. The skin is leathery, waxy, and smooth. The skin turns entirely pale green or yellow marked with red, depending on the particular variety when ripe. Inedible, the skin contains a sap that is irritating to some people. The quality of the fruit depends on the scarcity of fiber and lack of turpentine taste. (Mmmm. . . turpentine)

The flesh of a mango is peachlike and juicy, with fibers radiating from the husk of the single large kidney-shaped seed. Fibers are more pronounced in fruits grown with hard water and chemical fertilizers. The flavor is pleasant and rich, high in sugars and acid.

Two related pieces of mango-related trivia:

  • The design that is used in paisley (the "paisle") is really a stylized depiction of a mango.
  • Paisley cloth really comes from India, and is used on cloth because the mango is held to be a symbol of fertility.
Of course I have no documentation for these facts; I learned them during a senior honors colloquium on food, taught at Oakland University by Dr. Carlo Coppola.

Mango for women and celery for men, huh? Think there could be a little bit of Freudian imagery at work there?

a ripe mango can be determined best this way: not by feel, because it can feel soft but still be fibreous, and not by color, although a deep red *usually* indicates ripeness, but by *smell*. If the stem is still there, pop it off, and smell the place where the stem just came from. If it smells fragrent and sweet and almost nectar-ish, the fruit is ripe. A truly ripe mango will have the texture almost betweeen a rich sorbet and a mousse, and have a deep somehow but not overbearingly sweet flavor.

In Indiana, and probably some nearby areas of the US, a mango is a vegetable that would be called a green bell pepper in many other areas of the world.

This is not to say that Hoosiers are unaware of the other meaning -- a sweet, sticky, exotic fruit -- but only that if someone says "mango" in Indiana, they are probably thinking of the vegetable.

I would love to add some information about how this came to be. Please /msg me and give me a few hints, Hoosiers!

A deliciously sweet tropical fruit (Mangifera indica) that is native to the Indian Burmese border region, where it has been cultivated for over 4000 years.

A good mango is a true wonder of nature; Bright orange flesh brimming with wonderful tropical flavours, offset by a tangy acidic finish.

Varieties and cultivation
However, not all mangoes are created equal. There are over 200 varieties ranging in size from a large egg, up to that of a coconut. Many varieties are highly fibrous and some have a distinctive turpentine flavour and aroma. It has been only through careful selection and crossbreeding that we have the marvelous commercial varieties enjoyed today, such as the bowen and kensington pride.

Mangoes were once a treat savoured only in the summer months, but due to the plant being introduced into far-flung corners of the world, they can now be enjoyed year round. Regions that produce notable quantities of mango are Central America, Mexico, Florida, Israel, South Africa, Australia and of course, Southeast Asia.

This versatile fruit is enjoyed in several ways. The most obvious is a ripe mango eaten as a table fruit, but the unripe mango is also used in two novel fashions.

Sour unripe mangoes are sliced and sun dried in India to make a distinctive acidulating powder known as amchoor. In Thailand the unripe fruit (as well as a variety that is ripe when green) is shredded into a sublime salad known as yam mamuang, which is redolent with hot chilli and fish sauce.

Perhaps the most intriguing regional mango tradition comes from Sri Lanka. A particular mango variety known as dumpara is quite small and unappetizingly fibrous. The juice however, is honey sweet and they possess a beguiling aroma. When this variety is in season, the mangoes are placed in a communal bowl and are then massaged until the flesh is soft and pulpy. A small bite is taken from the stem end to pierce the skin and the juice is hedonistically sucked out as the pervasive honey smell overtakes the house.

Skin colour is no indication of a mango's ripeness. Some varieties are fully ripe when their skin is still green; others remain tart while bearing a scarlet blush on the exterior. The only reliable method of choosing a sweet ripe mango is to take a deep sniff. The successful candidate will have an intoxicating tropical fruit aroma, with a slight yield to the flesh when pressed.
All mangoes contain a large oval seed, which can make serving a little tricky. Perhaps the best method of preparing the ripe fruit is to slice the fruit into 2 lobes off the side of the seed. Turn each lobe skin side down and score the flesh 3 - 4 times in a crosshatch pattern right down to the skin. Press the skin to invert the lobes and attractive cubes of mango present themselves for easy consumption.
Nutrition and medicinal uses
Mangoes are a valuable source of iron and vitamin A. One mango contains up to 20 times the vitamin A of an equivalently sized orange. The stem end of a mango contains a caustic sap that can cause nasty skin irritations to harvesters and occasionally trouble for sensitive throats. Apart from the fruit, the bark of a mango tree is used as a dysentery remedy and the dried leaves are used as a diarrhea treatment.

Confounded machines! In the midst of writing here, the bally thing crashed, forcing me to start anew. It simply couldn't handle the strain placed on it by the Shakespearean Quote Generator - seemed to sort of flicker around the edges, don't you know, and sway a bit. I often feel that way myself when Jeeves begins to give out his "Stay Passenger, tumty-tumty fast / Read if thou canst, whom tumty death hath plast," and so on. I suppose a fellow like him has no trouble fathoming it, but it's a bit much for us lesser chaps to follow. At any rate, I suppose I shall have to shove up the shirt-cuffs and begin anew.

It's a funny thing, but each passing day brings my heart closer to that man Marx's. Not the one who was all eyebrows and cigar, the other cove. He used to spout something about television which I'm quite convinced was genius.

The Dreadful Box is in our midst, following the visit of one of my nephews. I suppose in medieval times one had the same sort of trouble with town criers: pleasant enough in theory, but in practice a greater band of temperamental half-wits wandering about braying the latest rumor and innuendo could hardly be found on ITV. Still, there are a few diamonds in the rough. In particular, a cookery programme imported from America - one of those so in vogue among the Younger Generation - mentioned the most astonishing thing in my hearing just the other day.

I wasn't watching it, of course; it happened to be in my line of vision as I was perusing an improving book.

The hostess of the programme happened to mention in passing that once one has absconded - if that's the word I want - with the bulk of a mango's meat, the pit will serve one delightfully in the bath. Well, I mean to say, what?

It had simply never crossed my mind that foodstuffs could be used as a sort of soap or bath-salt. As it happened, we had a basket of fruit in the house that my Aunt Agatha -- of whom the poet Shakespeare once wrote,

I do begin to perceive that I am made an ass
-- delivered me as her rather mouldy idea of a proper Christmas offering. Still, joyful tidings, and whatnot, and (doubtless at great personal cost and effort) someone had included a mango in the dratted thing. I immediately removed myself to a remote location with a pen-knife and had at it.

I don't know if you've ever eaten a mango before. If you haven't, be well-prepared with raincoat and underwater gear upon your first expedition. Mine was a slippery beast, leaping out of my fingers like live trout at every opportunity - and being shaped rather like something you'd see in a particularly gooey rugby tournament, it had many of these. I finally had the best of it, however, if you discounted a few odd orange splashes here and there and a sharp wound or two from the pen-knife.

As I read this over, it occurs to me that one could just as well eat it in the bath, saving no doubt hundreds of pounds annually on labour and laundry-soap. However, such a hedonistic plan had yet to occur to me, which is probably just as well. If Jeeves knew I was devouring tropical fruits among the soap-suds, he would definitely twitch a disapproving eyebrow and begin with an "I fear, sir..." and the next thing we both knew, I would be giving the entire basket to the stable-boy or something. I mean, one has to draw the line somewhere.

The theory, as I understand it, is that the remaining pulp contains myriad remarkable oils, the better with which to soften and tone the skin, and the nut or seed underneath scrapes away the dead skin cells, and with them, the cares of the day. I don't mind admitting that I felt a bit of a fool washing myself with a whopping great fruit-stone, but there you have it. The mango is not a free-stone fruit; its meat clings like the arms of the devastating young ingenue in one of those giddy romantic comedies. As a result, barring actually gnawing on the thing, one is left with quite a bit of fruity stuff to serve as a sort of soft soap.

The rumors of toning oils were quite true; I suppose that's what makes the devilish fruit leap and soar about so. I'm bound to say I couldn't unearth an exfoliating surface anywhere, so Bertram's skin cells will have to find their own way to whatever serves as their Great Beyond. I did develop what I think was quite a clever method of running the backs of my thumbnails over the orange flesh to expose the wood underneath, and that at least kept me slathered with as much mango as any man could ever want.

I managed not to eat any of the bathwater-infused stuff, but it came as near as dammit several times. It's just so dreadfully sweet and tasty. A kiwi has a rough exterior, doesn't it -- or there were some grapefruits that one would think might refresh everything tremendously... I wonder....

(This is more or less a true story. This is what happens when I read great chunks of a P.G. Wodehouse omnibus and then take a long bath... with a mango pit.)

Excalibre says: I would NOT recommend this. I, like many other people, am allergic to the damn things. it's actually quite common - they're related to poison ivy (if I recall correctly) and they secrete a similar oil that's quite commonly the cause of trouble. I believe it's handling the skin that actually gets me, but rubbing your body with something akin to poison ivy in the bath is probably asking for trouble. and allergies DO develop over time in some cases.

perfection worth chasing

I'd never had an Ataulfo mango before, but they were ripe (unlike the standard green footballs at the local supermarket) and on sale 2 for $3. They were fairly small to downright tiny and had an appealingly soft yellow skin - little tender golden runts that fit snugly in the palms of my hands. After getting them home without too much brutal jostling, I peeled them and cut the slippery, vivid flesh away from the fibrous pit.

I did not know that they would taste so amazing.

Bright, juicy insides like a rich, satiny orange creamsicle, but a million times better, and with just a whisper of tartness. (This isn't necessarily a great way to describe them, as I personally loathe orange creamsicles, but it captures the lovely sweet-acidic flavor and the lucious mouthfeel pretty well.) I used two of them in a fresh salsa for tacos last week, then promptly went back to the store and bought another pair for snacking. Good lord, I mean...this is ambrosia. This is what a winged Johnny Depp (or Scarlett Johansson - or in my case, maybe David Bowie) would feed you in heaven as you floated on a cloud made of marshmallow fluff and Maine Coon kittens. This is an incomprehensibly delicious substance. The absolute tastiest fruit I have ever put in my mouth, and I never want to stop. Especially since the season ends in July...

Man"go (?), n.; pl. Mangoes (#). [Pg. manga, fr. Tamil mankay.]


The fruit of the mango tree. It is rather larger than an apple, and of an ovoid shape. Some varieties are fleshy and luscious, and others tough and tasting of turpentine. The green fruit is pickled for market.


A green muskmelon stuffed and pickled.

Mango bird Zool., an oriole (Oriolus kundoo), native of India. -- Mango fish Zool., a fish of the Ganges (Polynemus risua), highly esteemed for food. It has several long, slender filaments below the pectoral fins. It appears about the same time with the mango fruit, in April and May, whence the name. -- Mango tree Bot., an East Indian tree of the genus Mangifera (M. Indica), related to the cashew and the sumac. It grows to a large size, and produces the mango of commerce. It is now cultivated in tropical America.


© Webster 1913.

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