July 3, 2011
Mango Madness starts in South Florida sometime near the end of June every year. The mangos are finally ripe and turn into the talk of the town:
- Have you seen the mangos on that tree at so-n-so's house?
- Are they ripe yet?
- Where can I buy one of those long pole pickers?
- Is it OK to take them off some ones tree? Off the ground?
- News Alert: So-n-so has a big basket of mangos on the curb!
- Can you get me some mangos?
- When's the festival in Pine Island?
- How many varieties are there?
- What will you do with the mangos?
- Any new recipes?
Every year at the end of July Pine Island, Florida has a festival called "Mangomania", the Pine Island Tropical Fruit Fair. People get dressed up in costumes for this 2 day affair and they have a Mango Queen each year. Fun contests include pie eating, a mango toss, mango juggling, mango weigh-in, and a mango hat contest. They also have educational talks, plants and fruit for sale, and the required suveniers. It's all about the mango. They even have a website at Florida Creative Coast. The Mango Mania Song is written and performed by the 2006 Mango Mania Queen, Theresa Roach. Theresa has been writing songs for her Kindergarten Students for over 20 years at Pine Island Elementary school. Click Here to listen.
Mango's are a strange fruit, especially for someone who spent most of their life in the cold Northeast where mango's were an exotic fruit eaten by few. When I first moved to the island in 2003 and experienced my first Mango Madness, I turned my nose up to the plump tropical fruit. I had no idea what to do with a mango or what they tasted like, so I passed.
Now, after trying this sweet, tropical delight, I am hooked. My favorite recipe is Spicy Mango Chutney which I make enough to last most of the year. Slap the chutney on chicken and slowly grill—the caramelized mango's on the chicken is one of my favorites.
This 4th of July weekend I have a pile of ripe mango's ready for processing. I dug out my chutney recipes and found three different mango bread recipes I printed a few years back and never tried—maybe this weekend. Maybe.
In today's news the headline reads "Mango thieves striking in Fort Myers." The thieves are back! As I walked the island this past week I noticed all the lower "reachable" mango's were stripped from our local trees. Was this the work of thieves? Or as high as the owners could reach to retrieve their treats? I am guilty myself of riding my bicycle around the island looking for mango trees and hopefully some mango's on the ground below the trees. On my evening bike rides I fill up the basket on my bike with a few from each location. Most people are glad you are helping to clean up their yard, they can only use so many mangos and these trees produce a lot of fruit, plus the critters get to them quick.
One time a few years ago a friend rented a house that is now torn down and replaced with another new monster. Luckily the new owners saved the mango tree on this property which had the most amazing mango's I ever tasted--they smelled and tasted like Hawaii. My friend let me take all I wanted from that tree, so I did. Now the new owners have a big fence around their property, so I have to ask if I want a mango from that tree again. And yes, I did ask last year and they gave me a few; so far this season I have not seen them home every time I pass; maybe they might be home today. I just hope they did not go up north for the summer and forget their precious mangos, that would be a shame.
Mango's taste different from each tree for some reason, must be the variety. I have had mango's that taste like Hawaii, coconut, bland mango, and tart. My neighbor's tree suffered damage during Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and finally this year, 2011, the tree produced a bumper crop (see the pictures above). The fruit from this tree tasted like coconut! I made mango bread and it had an incredible flavor. In the past the fruit from this tree was bland, but not this year. I can't believe it took five years to recover. My neighbor said I could have all I want, so last night I got two more Mango's from this tree; they were on the ground and almost ripe. I felt like a bandit in the middle of the night crawling thru the bushes, another Mango Thief (even though I had permission)! Now I can make the mango rum cake I was hope for.
I sliced open a small ripe mango to take a picture for this post. They are not the easiest fruit to slice, especially if they are very ripe like mine are. The seed on the inside is surrounded by a fibrous membrane that seems to hold the fruit to it, slicing doesn't work when they are very ripe. See the mushy mess I made, the only thing I could do was to scrape the pulp away from the seed pod and skin. I hate cutting fruit for some reason and getting the fruit out of a mango is not a fun task for me—one big yuck! You must work with the fruit over a bowl to preserve the thick orange colored juices, see the mess on my counter when I just cut into the ripe mango. If I cut this batch of mangos a few days ago, it would have been a different ball game, I could have sliced out the pieces "hedgehog" style.
Make chutney with very ripe mangos and breads or deserts with just ripe ones. Mangos are hard and not good at all if they are not ripe. You can ripen them in a brown paper bag, but vine ripe mangos are best, especially if one has just fallen naturally from the tree. The ripe mangos in my kitchen produce the most incredible scent that is washing throughout the house.
Mangos are found in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world and with hundreds of varieties they are the world's most consumed fruit. Here in Florida they are common trees with at least one on every street. Mango peel and sap contains urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy and poison sumac that can cause reactions in susceptible people, although this is very uncommon here. Ripe mangos are eaten raw or used in many ways including:
- Breads, muffins, pies, deserts
- Smoothies and juices
- Cream sauce with yogurt and sugar
- Chutney recipes, jams, preserves
- Ice cream toppings
- Curry recipes for fish and chicken
I have found you get 2 cups of cubed mango's from one medium sized one; one mango per recipe is a good guess.
So the next time you are looking for something different, try a mango and join the madness.