Ahhhhhh mango season!
Mango season is here, trees all around are in various stages- some still blossoming, others in full bloom and laden! Mango season brings up profound and significant issues, such as: What’s the best way to eat a mango?
I’ve decided that the world can be divided into three types of mango eaters – there are those who squeeze and suck, those who slice and dice, and those who make a full body commitment. It all comes down to: how messy do you want to get?
The squeeze and suck – Squeeze the unpeeled mango all over making is very soft. The squeezing turns the pulp to juice. Once the mango is properly softened all around, bite the tip (the opposite end of the stem), immediately the juice will spurt, put the mango to your mouth and start sucking on it.
It is a matter of squeezing and sucking the juice, this way, your hands are clean and so is your mouth, there’s no mango juice lingering anywhere. Now some people do one of two things here when all the juice has been sucked out of the mango, they simply discard it while others rip the skin apart to get to the seed and suck on it before throwing it away.
The slice and dice – Armed with a paring knife and a plate, the two sides of the mangoes are sliced and one of two ways of eating takes place here. First, the sliced sides, one at a time is eaten by putting the flesh side to your mouth, sinking your teeth into it and then moving the slice downward as your teeth releases the pulp from the skin.
This continues with the slice being turned all around to ensure that all the pulp is removed and eaten. Attention is then turned to the seed with the surrounding pulp; the band of skin is removed by biting and peeling it back with your teeth, once removed, bite into the mango all around. Eating it this way gets your hand moistened with the juice.
The other way to eat a mango in this section is to score the two sides of the mango once sliced. You know, take the knife and cut lengthways and then crossways, peel back the skin slightly and reveal the perfect little cubes of mango. Using the knife, the cubed bits of mango are removed and eaten.
When it comes to the seed, the surrounding flesh is sliced, skin removed with the knife and eaten. No sucking of the seed here. Your hands will only be slightly moistened with the juice of the mango.
The total body commitment – Now this is where inhibitions are cast aside and one really gets down to work devouring the mango. No knives, no plate, all you need is the mango. The mango is held with both hands, brought to your mouth and skinned with your bare teeth revealing its deep-orange, sweet, fruity, juicy pulp.
As you bite into the mango, it covers your mouth and depending on how big the mango is and how you are holding it, part of it even touches the tip of your nose! Your hands are wet with mango juice, some of it running through your fingers and if you are a kid, the juice could be running all down your little arm.
When you’re finished eating a mango this way, you really need to clean up – the hands, around the mouth, the chin and the nose. Heck you might even have to change your clothes if any of the juice fell on it.
Now all this talk about the various ways of eating mangoes begs the question: How does Cynthia eat her mango? I’m in the slice and dice category, but with a little more slice than dice. This way, I get the best of all three ways I think, I get to slice, I get to remove the pulp with my teeth and I get to suck on the mango seed!
I tend to get fussy when choosing my mangoes to eat, while they should be fully ripe, I want them to be firm. I don’t like them bruised or with soft spots. In terms of varieties, I am no expert but what I do know is that I don’t like the mangoes where the pulp is overly stringy; I don’t want to have to floss every time I eat a mango! Let me hasten to add that string or no string, I don’t refuse sweet ripe mangoes.
My favourite by far is the Julie Mango, the one where the skin is red when ripened. And then there is another variety, which my mom refers to as Spice mango, it’s round and when ripe the skin is orange rather than yellow. That is not to say that I do not enjoy the long mango that we get also but the Julie and Spice mangoes are my favourites.
To each his own, but frankly, I can’t think of a fruit that is more perfect than a ripe, juicy mango and we are so blessed to have this fruit grow abundantly, in variety, in our part of the world.
Well, so much so that when one travels abroad and a dish on the menu says it’s Caribbean, what they mean is that the plate is adorned with a couple slices of mango. That’s what some have reduced or cuisine to! But I’ll save that rant for another time.
I believe that mangoes are best enjoyed naturally, I’ve even taken to lightly sprinkling Fleur de Sel (a prized French sea salt) onto my mangoes, doing this heightens the sweetness of the mango as it contrasts with the salt. I think any good sea salt or finishing salt would work well here but don’t use the regular table salt, the salinity (saltiness) is too high and would distort rather than enhance and heighten the flavour and sweetness of the mango.
I’d like to encourage you, after you’ve eaten mangoes to your heart’s content to try making things with them: ice creams, sorbets, smoothies, souffl√s, drinks, sauces, crepes, salsas etc. Cook it with seafood or chicken.
And don’t forget to capitalise on the mangoes in their un-ripened state to make achar, sour, chutney or curry. Actually, my friend George is bringing by some green mangoes for me today (Thursday) so that I can put them in the fish curry I am making for Good Friday. However you eat it and whatever you make, enjoy the mango season!
* Cynthia Nelson is a journalist, tutor, food photographer and author of the award-winning book: Tastes Like Home – My Caribbean Cookbook (IRP 2010). She writes regularly about food in various Caribbean Publications.
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