Once considered an ethnic food, the tropical mango is now mainstream and the luscious fruit is available to Canadians almost year-around. "We assume that people from India (where mangos originated), Mexico or Latin America are the biggest consumers but it has become a fresh fruit that is extremely popular in its own right," says Karen Caplan, president of Frieda's specialty produce in Los Angeles, which ships mangos to Canada from a number of countries.
Dr. Betty Kissoon agrees. The retired Toronto physician who has written a string of cookbooks focussing on Caribbean cuisine, says that immigration from mango-growing countries has made the fruit more popular and accessible. "I use mangos a lot in my cooking," says the native of Georgetown, Guyana.
In particular, Kissoon likes to buy the small green mangos for pickle or chutney. But she also experiments with the yellow and red varieties in everything from desserts to cocktails to baked products.
Mangos were cultivated for over 4,000 years in India, spreading to south China, the Philippines, South America and the Caribbean. Mango trees are evergreens that will grow to more than 6 metres tall and will fruit four to six years after planting.
There are 1,000 varieties of mangos throughout the world. And beyond being delicious and rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, mangos contain an enzyme to soothe stomach ailments. A 105 g (31/2 oz) serving of sliced fresh mango contains just 66 calories, almost no fat and is a rich source of vitamin A, potassium, vitamin C and fibre.
Caplan points out that with fruits like mangos, "you don't have to use a lot of them" to give a dish a lift. And, she adds, the time to make chutneys and salsas is when mangos are selling for 3 for $2. Some of the more popular varieties found in supermarkets and fresh produce shops are the Kent, Tommy Atkins, Haden, Ataulfo and Keitt. The first three are large ovals with either greenish-yellow, red or orange skins and contain little or no fibre. All have golden sweet flesh.
The Ataulfo is a small flat, oblong shape greenish yellow to deep golden when ripe. It is free of fibre and is very sweet and rich in flavour.
The Keitt, an Indian strain, is a large ovate tapering with slight nose-like protuberance above it's tip. A late fruiting mango, it is often available in winter.
The easiest way to serve a fresh mango is to slice off the sides as close to the large pit as possible. Using a sharp pointed knife, score the inside of the flesh in a crisscross pattern. Turn the whole segment inside out and you are left with small cubes of mango looking like a hedgehog and sticking up from the skin which can be chewed off. The middle section containing the pit can be peeled and sliced off.
In Kissoon's most recent cookbook Caribbean Desserts (Centax), she has created nearly two dozen drinks and sweet treats using mangos. Caplan says you can always tell when a particular fruit takes off and gains wide acceptance.
"Whenever a fruit flavour becomes popular, other sources and suppliers of product extensions, such as fruit juices, syrups and bottled beverages, jam and salsas, really help to stimulate the purchase of fresh fruits as well," she says.
From The Canadian Press