“…now that you are here, what of all things in the world would you like to eat?
Kay thought and thought; at last he said, ‘I think mangoes, please.’ Instantly out of the wall three plates appeared laden with mangoes. The plates had neat little legs which walked. They walked up to the table and bowed down before him, so that he could eat the mangoes; afterwards a sponge walked up and mopped off the stickiness”
-John Masefield, The Box of Delights
Mangoes are particularly in India. They originated there over 5,000 years ago and today almost half world production is sourced from India. Nevertheless, Indian mangoes only account for about 1% of world trade – most are eaten in India.
Mangos crop up in indian history at all kinds of junctures. The shade of the mango tree provided a cool retreat for Buddha (as well as others – hear the famous song in the first Bond film of all, Dr No). On another occasion Buddha announced he would perform a miracle under a mango tree. Disbelievers wanting to discredit him destroyed all the surrounding trees in a kind of early form of ‘own-goal’. The wily Buddha then simply ate a mango, the stone was planted, and instantly a tree grew beside him, to full height – an impressive miracle as they can grow to 100 feet and go on producing fruit for 300 years.
In the sixteenth century, the Mughal emperor Akbar planted an orchard of 100,000 mango trees in eastern India, and the benign symbolism of the mango remains strongly to this day. The paisley pattern is a stylised depiction of the mango, and if you give a basket of mangoes in India it’s considered an act of friendship. More recently, the mass popularity of the Katrina Kaif advertisement (see below) shows that the popularity of the mango, at least in the Indian sub-continent continues unabated. At least I think that’s what it shows….
At any rate, they are now popular worldwide and the juicy, messy, slurpiness of them is a major part of the attraction:
- marinades – they have natural tenderising properties
- salads – chicken, seafood, beef, couscous, prawn , with apple (use lime juice to prevent browning) ….and lots of recipes to come
- salsas – especially with fish and scallops
- chutneys – with, of course, curries
- ice cream – you can make an excellent soft ice cream by simply blending the frozen flesh of a mango with a couple of tablespoons of full fat coconut milk; add maple syrup and lime juice to taste. (The ripe mango contains lactones reminiscent of coconut)
- Niki Segnit suggests serving them steeped in Gewürztraminer and vanilla cream
- Nigel Slater makes a lassi (fruit mixed with ice and yoghurt) and adds blueberry syrup
- cocktails – in a mojito instead of lime; in a daiquiri; and particularly successfully in a bellini
- as a powder in the Indian spice, Amchoor, used to contribute a sour flavour
- the wonderful blog, Monsoon Spice, gives a good recipe for mangoes in brine, and a couple of recipes for how they can be used imaginatively.
Things to know about mangoes
- to speed up the ripening process put the mango in a paper bag and keep it at room temperature.
- to slow down the ripening process put it in the fridge.
When are they in season?
In India the harvest is between March and May, but mangoes are generally available from one source or another all year round.
How to prepare a mango
Iconic Katrina Kaif mango slice advertisement
Mangoes in literature
A Case of Exploding Mangoes, by Mohammed Hanif, is a dark, but brilliant political satire about the assassination of the Pakistani dictator General Zia.
Mangoes and Mimosa, by Suzanne St Albans, is a memoir about growing up in eccentric households in Malaya and Provence.