Get to know the mango in this handy guide, from types of mango to mango recipes, plus lots more info you never knew about this marvelous tropical fruit.
Mango is one of the most popular fruits in the world. It is believed that mango was first found in India over 5,000 years ago, and traveled with humans from Asia to almost every continent since. Mango is still considered a symbol of love in India, and according to local tradition, presenting a basket of mangoes symbolizes a gesture of friendship.
Firm, fleshy, tropical, and juicy, mangoes are one of the highest-nutrient fruits in the world. According to the USDA, this super-fruit is packed with fiber, 20 vitamins and minerals (including Vitamin C, A and B6, folate, and copper), and has very low carbohydrates, and few calories (202 calories per 1 whole mango).
Now that summer is in full swing, you are likely to see more of these succulent and aromatic fruits in your neighborhood grocery stores. Here’s what you need to know about buying, storing, and using mangoes.
Types of Mangoes
Each type of mango has a unique flavor, texture, shape, and size, which may also change depending on its stage of ripeness and time of the year. According to The National Mango Board, whose mission is to increase the consumption of fresh mango in the U.S., there are six main types of mangoes sold in the U.S. These are:
- Ataulfo (a.k.a., honey mango)
- Tommy Atkins
These all have different shapes, ranging from oval to round; varying flavors of tart and peachy to honey-sweet; and an array of colors with hues of dark red, green, and bright yellow. Also, the seed to flesh ratio and amount of juice vs. fibrous pulp differs by the type of mango. See a full description of each type for more details.
Though mangoes are grown all across South and Central America, Asia, and Africa, most mango sold in the U.S. is imported from Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Haiti.
How to Pick the Perfect Mango
Young green mangoes have a sweet, mildly citric flavor that is good for making Indian-style pickles, Philippine chutneys and jams, Thai salads, and Caribbean stews and soups, while the tender yellow ones are eaten raw and used in drinks and desserts.
When it comes to choosing a ripe mango, “Smell it first!” says Jet Lee, chef and owner at a Mango-Mango franchise located on Buford Highway, near Atlanta. Lee purchases 100 boxes of fresh mangoes at a time to create mango pancakes, ice cream, juices, and cakes, and all kinds of mango-based drinks and desserts that he serves at his late-night restaurant.
“A tropical, sweet-smelling mango means that it is ripe and ready to eat, while a sour or bitter smell indicates the mango may be unripe or not of good quality” advises Lee.
Ripe mangoes will have some give, but should not be too soft or mushy. Skin should be smooth and firm, not wrinkled.
How to Store Mangoes
Unripe mangoes can be stored at room temperature until they are soft. To slow down the ripening process, whole, ripe mangoes should be kept in the refrigerator. Once a mango is cut, it needs to be consumed within a few hours, unless it is placed in an airtight container and frozen. Otherwise it begins to darken in color.
How to Cut a Mango Like a Pro
There are many ways to cut a mango. You can slice, dice, or simply squeeze the pulp out, depending on what you plan to use the fruit for. Make sure to wash the mango before cutting and use a sharp knife. Work around the long, flat seed found in the center of the mango and slice each side without breaking the skin. Using a spoon, scoop out the slices (similar to an avocado), then dice it further if you like.
Zyliss Mango Splitter, $16 from Sur La Table
You can also try a shortcut like this tool.
Read more and see alternative methods in our guide on how to cut a mango.
Ways to Cook With Mangoes
Mango is a versatile fruit that can be used in salads, juices, smoothies, desserts (mango pie, brandied mango bread pudding, mango cheesecake, mango panna cotta), drinks (mango margarita, mango lassi, mango mojito), or as a condiment (mango chutney, mango salsa).
“Anything that you can cook with peaches, plums, cherries, or other stone fruit, you can also make with mangoes, and vice-versa,” says Jen Karetnick, Miami-based dining critic and author of the cookbook “Mango.”
Mango by Jen Karetnick, $24.95 from Amazon
The auhor isn't nicknamed Mango Mama for nothing.
Among the many tips and tricks Karetnick shares in her book, she dries up mangoes and grinds them into a powder to use as a seasoning; purees mango into a gazpacho style soup; and grills cubes of mango on skewers. “If I’m feeling more creative, I’ll make a full mango meal of mussels steamed with white wine and mangoes, mango-jalapeno cornbread, asparagus with mango Hollandaise sauce, and baby roasted potatoes glazed with a mango-butter sauce reduced with Champagne!” she says.
Karetnick’s favorite mango recipe is also the simplest. She cuts up chunks of ripe mango, adds hunks of Gruyere or Jarlsberg cheese, and uses a provoletera (Argentine baking dish) to bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Then she scoops out the mango-melted cheese and serves it with baguettes or crackers with a side of honey mustard.
Header image courtesy of apomares / E+ / Getty Images