Love the mango – tips on picking, prepping, and enjoying.
A few weeks ago, I was with a friend, walking around a local farmer’s market (one of my favorite pastimes). We stopped at one booth where we found mangoes – which is a bit unusual for California, but there they were.
I love mangoes. I pointed to them and said, “These look so pretty!”
My friend looked, and shook her head, “Nope. Hate cutting them. I never seem to get it right and eventually just end up with a mess!”
I had to step back. With twenty plus years in the restaurant business, naturally I’m fearless about food. But I can see how mangoes could be intimidating. They’re big, odd shaped, and look nothing like apples and oranges. In fact, did you know that although they are considered a “stone fruit” (single large seed in the center of the fruit) they actually belong to the cashew family?
Mangoes are the most commonly eaten fruit in tropical countries in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific archipelagoes. It’s the national fruit of India (almost half the cultivated mangoes in the world are grown in India) and widely grown in Pakistan and the Philippines. But lately, growers in South America and California have had good luck growing them, thus the unusual appearance at my local farmer’s market.
Ripe mangos are great to eat raw – chilled or not. Sour or unripe mangoes are used in chutneys, pickles, etc. Many drinks, juices, and smoothies are made using mangoes, and they can be dried and or added to cereals. Mango pulp is used to make jams and jellies. They can be eaten almost any way you can imagine when you want to add a little natural sweetness to a dish.
How can you tell if a mango is good? Don’t focus on the color of the skin. Mangos ripen from green to yellow, with some varieties showing red. Use the same rules you’d use for avocados and peaches: firmly soft to a gentle squeeze. A ripe mango (ready to eat) will also have a fruity aroma at their stem ends. Don’t be afraid to sniff your fruit at the market – it’s a perfect clue as to ripeness – this includes citrus!
How do you cut a mango? First big tip – DO NOT try to peel the mango while still on the pit. It’ll only turn into a soft and mushy mess! Best results come when you cut the fruit from the pit – which is pretty straight-forward.
- Mangoes look very unusual. The pit itself is flat which gives the mango an odd oblong shape that tells you the direction that the pit is going. After you wash the skin thoroughly, place the fruit on a cutting board with the stem end away from you and the narrow edge of the mango facing up. Take a look at my video for a better view of what this looks like.
- Use a very sharp knife and cut down one side of the pit. Turn it around and cut down the other side of the pit. This will leave some fruit still attached to the pit, you’ll cut that later.
- Gently take the mango halves into your hand and VERY CAREFULLY score the fruit, but don’t cut through the skin. This will give you long mango slices. To dice, score the fruit again crosswise.
- Take the scored halves and turn them inside out. Then cut along the skin to release the mango slices or cubes. Important tip: keep your hand flat!
As for the rest of the mango, the part that’s still on the pit, you can quickly cut around it for a few more slices and cubes.