In the Northeast and the Midwest, the snow has barely begun to melt, but in Miami, known to many New Yorkers as the sixth borough, its summer twice over. Thats because our beloved mango trees bloomed early this year, and bloomed well. In fact, the trees have performed this process twice.
Thanks to an inordinately warm December, tiny green fruit had already started to appear on the ends of some denuded twigs by the beginning of the year. Yet the usual cold snaps followed, slowing down the sap, and now, if you drive on I-95 anywhere in South Florida, you can spot a second batch of blazing golden crowns stretching for miles. At night, the scent hangs in the air, enticing and elusive. During the day, the blossoms fall off their panicles each one containing anywhere from a few hundred to six thousand flowers to collect on backyard decks, build up on windshield wipers like tropical frost and tangle in breeze-ruffled hair.
Florida’s mango season begins in May and runs until October, and if you read the social-media posts of dooryard owners and mango enthusiasts alike, the excitement is palpable. This year, thanks to the second bloom, collection is going to be double, and as residents realize what’s in store, the fervor (or dread, depending on who you ask) is intensifying.
Mango fever is not only limited to locals with an abundance of fruit to eat, use or share, however. Events such as the 22nd Annual Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden International Mango Festival, located in South Miami-Dade County, and Pine Islands 19th Annual Mango Mania Tropical Fruit Fair, an annual fete on the southwest coast of Florida, draw an estimated 15,000 people between them every July. Many of these visitors are folks who dont already own trees, looking to cash in on that years grafted varietals for sale, which in the case of Fairchild’s festival are specially cultivated by renowned horticulturist Richard Campbell, some explicitly for small spaces. Others are devoted mango lovers eager to sample untried cultivars sourced from around the globe by his cohort, Noris Ledesma each year, the Fairchild Mango Festival features a particular countrys mangos and its distinct range of varieties or dishes featuring mangos, prepared by award-winning chefs such as Allen Susser, Andrea Curto-Randazzo and Frank Randazzo.
Across the country, enthusiasts unable to travel to the mangos can mail-order them ripe and ready from groves such as Pine Island Nursery and fruit stand Robert Is Here, which specializes in favored cultivars like Keitt and Kent. In fact, its likely that grove owners all over southeast and southwest Florida, as well as Hawaii, where the season is similar but a little longer, will experience a surge in business this year. This is because the The Canadian Press is reporting that mangos in general will be a 2015-2016 food trend. Europeans have recently lifted a ban on importing Alphonso mangos from India, Jamaica has just been approved to export their mangos to the United States and Australia has sold out its first experimental shipments of Calypso mangos to Texas and California markets. Worldwide, it looks like mangos are poised to become the next kale.
These factors should lead to increased visibility, availability and a new awareness of this countrys mango-producing regions. Thats great news if youre a mango lover stuck in a northern or Midwestern clime where ripe mangos have been unfamiliar or rarely discovered treats. However, if your personal experience with mangos is limited to frozen, dried or jarred supermarket fruit or Central and South American exports that have been picked way before readiness, you may not know exactly what to do with a basket of fresh, perfumed bounty. Here are 12 quick and simple ways to enjoy a mango whether its green, dried, ripe or overripe in a manner you may never have thought.
1. Crunch through the cheek of a green mango the way they do in the Caribbean and Latin American countries, seasoned simply with salt and vinegar. Some also prefer it with hot sauce.
2. Cut it up and toss it into a beef stew or pork curry. Green mangos tenderize meat, which is one of the reasons why you find green mango in curry dishes all over southeastern Asia and the Caribbean.
3. Shred it, along with green papaya, and season with Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce, a dab of shrimp paste, a little rice vinegar and peanut or sesame oil for an exotic slaw.
1. Replace any fruit in a quick bread or muffin recipe or the raisins in Irish soda bread with small bits of dried mango.
2. Sprinkle on mixed spring greens along with your favorite, lightly toasted nuts (I like pepitas) and small chunks of feta or goat cheese, then toss with a raspberry or, better yet, mango vinaigrette.
3. Stir into morning oatmeal or evening polenta, quinoa or couscous while its cooking and let it tenderize along with the grains.
1. Spear a whole one on a mango fork, a cutlery item that features one long tine in the middle of some shorter ones. Then peel the skin with a potato peeler, hold it like an ice cream cone and eat every drop of juicy flesh. The mango fork is a modern mid-century collectible, but you can also find some new ones.
2. Butter an English muffin, add slices of fresh mango, sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and a little brown sugar and toast or broil in a toaster oven. Its like creating instant jam. If you want to get really fancy, add a slice of Canadian bacon and poached egg on top afterward and call it Mango Eggs Benedict.
3. Slice the cheeks off a mango, sprinkle them with a little salt and a bit of sugar, and barbecue them flesh side down for about a minute. Theyre a great, fabulously flavorful and fat-free accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken. Alternatively, cut the mango into chunks and thread them onto skewers with shrimp, scallops, peppers and cherry tomatos, then grill until done.
1. When mangos become too soft for slicing, do what the locals do. Roll them around a flat surface until the insides become liquid. Then, using a straw or a small knife (Ive seen my students use pencils and pens, but this makes me slightly queasy), make a small hole. Suck out the pulp and juice until the mango is nothing but skin and pit.
2. Mangos generally dont get overripe all at once. They tend to spot-ripe, with some parts becoming softer than others. Discard the overripe spots and puree the good parts with a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, one half-teaspoon mustard and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice (plus a turn of the pepper mill and a shake of salt) for a quick, sweet-tangy sandwich spread. Mix this with tuna or egg for a salad, too its positively addictive.
3. With some varietals, like the popular Haden variety that is the most common early-season mango in both Florida and Hawaii, the fruit that hangs longest on the tree may develop jelly pit, which is pretty much what it sounds like, a jiggling liquidation around the pit. These mangos are best for cutting up and making a salsa. Use the firmest pieces that are closer to the skin and discard any that are too gooey. Add onions, garlic (optional), bell peppers, chile peppers or hot sauce (if you like your salsa spicy), lime juice and a dash of apple cider vinegar, along with salt and pepper. Any of the softer pieces that find their way into the mix simply disintegrate into the base.
Jen Karetnick is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.