While there are hundreds of mango varieties, regrettably only a few make it to the Bay Area. Why? Most cultivars do not perform well out of their area of origin, and shipping ripe fruit has proved challenging for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look at two of the most common varieties:
Tommy Atkins is the most prolific mango variety overall, a seedling of Haden that first fruited in 1940 in Florida. Red blushed, succulent, rich deep flavor, and a floral/piney scent are highlights of this cultivar. Even though there are less fibrous, more flavorful mango varieties, growers worldwide have embraced the Tommy Atkins for its exceptional productivity and disease resistance, shelf-life, transportability, size, and appealing color. Currently coming in from Peru, this is our basic mango. As they come more into their season, ripeness will improve.
An alternate, just in from Mexico is the Ataulfo (or, Manila), a flat, canary yellow variety originally from the Philippines. They possess a silken, near creamy texture, a nectared, spicy-sweet flavor and a small seed, which translates to a good yield per fruit.
Mangos are a cashew family member, related to the pistachio, Peruvian pepper tree, and poison ivy (!). Botanically the fruit is a drupe, consisting of an outer skin, a fleshy edible portion, and a stone enclosing a single seed. Varieties range in size from 2 to 10 inches and from 4 ounces to 5 pounds in weight.
Mangiferi indica, or “an Indian plant bearing mangos”, date back over 5,000 years to the Hindo-Burma region of India. Wild, indigenous varieties are also found in Malaysia. Chinese history traces mangos to about 645 B.C. One of the most cultivated fruits of the tropical world, many cultures use its fruit and leaves for floral decorations at weddings, public celebrations and religious ceremonies.
A mango salsa (with any combination of avocado, cucumber, peppers, chiles, shallot, lime/lemon/orange juice, ginger, mint, cilantro) is perfect with shrimp, crab, fish, pork or poultry. Beverage-wise, options include lassi, frappes, daiquiris, martinis, and spritzers. For dessert, consider a mango strudel with banana and pistachio, a mango sour cream crumb cake, or a mango cobbler, ice cream, or cheesecake. Whip up a macadamia nut brittle and a caramel sauce for the ultimate mango split. Try green mangos in a slaw, or pickle them, or make chutney. Interesting note about pickling: as green mangos were often pickled, other pickled fruits came to be called “mangos”. By the 18th century, the word “mango” also became a verb meaning “to pickle”.