Mango Madness: The King of Fruit



by Allen Sussser

Selecting and Storing Mangos

In the world of mangos, there are two main kinds: green and ripe. Both are delicious, but they have very different uses. Green mangos refer to young fruit, usually pale green, without a hint of color; crisp, with a sour taste, although sometimes sweet and sour.

There are two categories of green mangos: immature and mature. The immature green mango is a fruit that is picked early from the tree, therefore it will never become ripe and sweet. Immature green mangos are often used in their entirety–the skin, flesh and soft stone are all edible–most commonly for pickles and chutneys. A note of caution though: some people are sensitive to the sap under the skin of these immature mangos, and develop a rash very similar to poison ivy (a species cousin of the mango).

The mature green mango is grown to full maturity on the tree before being harvested. The skin of the mango becomes thick, tough and inedible; its flesh firm, and fiber content less apparent. The mature green fruit is similar in flavor and texture to a freshly picked crisp, tart green apple. The stone in the mature green mango develops a hard shell to protect the seedling inside.

When selecting green mangos, look for an unblemished skin of dull, bluish-green or muted colors, and very firm flesh. If you want to store the mango for any extended period and delay the ripening process, mature green mangos can be kept at 55 degrees, without damage, for two weeks.

Ripe mangos are harvested when their skin grows yellow to orange and blushed and their flesh is firm. Although they are not completely ripened, most mangos sold in fruit stands and groceries are considered ripe. Ripening the fruit off the tree allows it to ripen more evenly and develop a better flavor. As the mango sweetens, its skin color usually becomes more spectacular. Pale greens turn to sunset yellows, blush pinks to deep purples; multi-colors turn striking red blush and crimson with bright yellow backgrounds.

The flesh of a ripe mango is usually yellow-orange in color, though it can range greatly in hue and intensity. Fiber content plays an important role in ripe mangos. Most Indian and Southeast Asian varieties have very little fiber compared to the Caribbean, Latin, and Florida varieties. Little or no fiber makes the fruit more custard-like in texture.  Because of their texture, slightly more fibrous mangos usually have more bite and mouth appeal.

When selecting a mango from the fruit stand, first look for a firm, unblemished skin, usually with bright colors. Knowing when and how you wish to use the mango will help you select and identify the proper fruit. If you want a sweet, ripe mango to be used that day, lead with your nose. Smell for a sweet, tropical ambrosial scent coming from the stem end. Then give it a light but firm squeeze. The flesh should have some give, like a ripe banana, but your fingers should not leave an imprint.

On the other hand, when purchasing mangos for later use, buy a firmer-fleshed mango with tight skin, whose color may still be a little dull. To ripen this fruit, keep it at room temperature (about 70 degrees) open to the air for several days. Avoid refrigeration during the ripening process; mangos may be chilled before eating if desired.

The ripe mango is prefect for eating when the skin has come to full bright color tones, its flesh is soft to the squeeze, and its sweet aroma fills the house with a lush tropical scent.

Fully ripened fruit can be stored in the refrigerator at 40 to 45 degrees for up to one week.


Mango-Shrimp Cocktail

Mango and seafood are fast friends. Here’s a twist on that American favorite, the shrimp cocktail. The ingredients in this dish would be as familiar in Brazil as they are in Thailand, both hotbeds of mango passion. I like to serve this in high-stemmed blue Mexican glasses.

Serves 4

2 small ripe mangos, peeled and cut from the pit

1 small red onion, diced

1/2 cup diced cucumber

1/2 cup diced watermelon

1 small jalapeño chile, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 jumbo shrimp, shelled, deveined, cooked, and chilled

2 tablespoons crushed peanuts

Cut 1 mango into eight 1-inch-wide wedges for garnish. Cut the remaining mango into 1/2-inch dice.

To make the salsa: In a large bowl, combine the diced mango, red onion, cucumber, watermelon, chile, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Divide the salsa among 4 stemmed glasses. Place 3 shrimp on the rim of each glass.

Garnish each with 2 mango wedges and sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon peanuts.


Roast Pork Loin with Mango Mojo and Yellow Plantains

In this Cuban-inspired dish, marinating the pork in the mango mojo allows the mango flavor to perfume the meat. Use plantains with a yellow skin; they are underripe and will stay firm when cooked.

Serves 4

2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat

2 cups Mango Mojo

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

4 yellow plantains, peeled, and cut into 2-inch pieces on the diagonal

Put the pork in a baking dish just large enough to hold it. Pour in the mango mojo, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry. Set the marinade aside. Brush the pork with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put the pork in a roasting pan and roast for 10 minutes, then decrease the temperature to 350°. Turn the meat over and pour half of the reserved marinade over the pork. Add the plantains and roast for another 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through and the plantains are golden brown. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes.

To serve, slice the meat across the grain and fan the slices on a large serving platter. Arrange the plantains on the sides of the platter. Spoon any pan juices over the pork.


Mango Gingersnaps

Ginger and mango is an inviting combination in both sweet and savory preparations. Try these gingersnaps right out of the oven.

Makes about 3 dozen

1 large ripe mango, peeled, cut from the pit, and chopped

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

21/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons baking soda

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a food processor, purée the mango until smooth. In a small saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of the mango purée, the ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently so the mango does not scorch on the bottom of the pan, for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and 2 cups of the sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs, one at a time, into the butter mixture. In a small bowl, stir the flour, salt, and baking soda together. Fold half of the flour mixture into the batter. Stir in the mango mixture. Fold in the remaining flour mixture.

Scoop the cookie mixture into walnut-sized balls and roll them individually in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Place the balls 2 inches apart on the prepared pan and flatten slightly with the prongs of a fork. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before transferring from the pan to wire racks.


From The Great Mango Book by Allen Susser. Copyright © 2001 Allen Susser. Excerpted by arrangement with Ten Speed Press. $14.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800-841-BOOK or click here.