The mango tree is considered sacred in India, the land of the fruit's origin. Now this delectable fruit is cultivated in temperate climates around the world, including California and Florida. There are many species of mango, which come in a wide variety of shapes (oblong, kidney and round) and sizes (from about six ounces to four pounds). Depending on the variety, their skin color can range from yellow-orange to yellow-green to yellow with brilliant red blushing. The fragrant flesh is a brilliant golden orange, exceedingly juicy and exotically sweet and tart. Perhaps the only negative to the mango is the huge, flat seed that traverses its length. Mangoes are in season from May to September, though imported fruit can be found throughout the remainder of the year. Look for fruit with an unblemished, yellow skin blushed with red. Because the seed is so oversized, the larger the mango the higher the fruit-to-seed ratio. Underripe fruit can be placed in a paper bag at room temperature. Ripe mangoes can be placed in a plastic bag and held refrigerated for up to five days. Mangoes must be peeled and the fruit carefully carved away from the large seed. To do this, stand the fruit on its wide end and use a sharp knife to vertically cut away the fruit, sliding the knife along the seed on one side, then repeating on the other. You'll have to guess about where the seed is. This will give you two large pieces. Then cut away the remaining flesh and use as desired. Or, you can peel the mango and use a gadget called a "mango pitter," which handles the job in one stroke. Mangoes need no embellishment and are delicious simply peeled and eaten plain. They're also wonderful in fruit salads, smoothies, salsas, desserts and chutneys. Mango can also be chopped and added to cooked foods such as rice or stir-fry dishes just before serving. Fresh mangoes are rich in vitamins A and C. Canned mangoes and mango nectar are available in many supermarkets. Mango purée or pulp can be found fresh in some natural food stores as well as Indian and Latin markets, and frozen in some supermarkets. Packaged dried mango comes in chunks and strips and is available in natural food stores and many gourmet markets. It must be rehydrated in warm water for about four hours before being used in baked goods, preserves, etc. Green mango is the unripe fruit, which has many uses in the cuisines of India, Malaysia and Thailand. This tart fruit is used fresh in various vegetable and lentil dishes, as well as to tenderize meat (just like papaya, green mango contains enzymes that will break down connective tissue). Fresh green mango is pickled and sold as a condiment for Indian dishes. Dried green mango has many uses, one of the most popular being to make amchoor, an Indian seasoning used to flavor many dishes. Green mango may be purchased in various forms in Asian and Indian markets.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
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