We love mangoes. Truly, if you’d asked us last year, before we came to India, we would surely have told you all about how much we loved mangoes. The very idea of mangoes was one of the lures of India.
One of Melissa’s favorite childhood memories is of her father coming home with a big box of mangoes, so excited to have found them at the store (back in the 70’s when they weren’t always so easy to find in the US), and teaching her how to cut out the pit at an angle, slice the fruit into long strips, and then scrape the flesh off the peel with her teeth (this last bit of the lesson might explain why he was so frequently ill in India).
When we got here, we looked at every street vendor’s cart, eager to buy our first Indian mangoes, but could never find any. We briefly imagined that the tender coconuts we saw everywhere were mangoes, but were quickly corrected. Oh, the disappointment when we were told that we’d have to wait until April for the start of mango season, and that the really good mangoes wouldn’t appear until May!
And now they’re here, in all their glory, and entirely worth the wait. In the US, we’re only aware of two kinds of mangoes: the larger, green and red ones with orange flesh that are usually just listed as Mangoes, and the smaller yellowish ones that are usually listed as Champagne Mangoes. In India that are over 20 varietals. Some are tart, some are sweet, and some are both. Some taste so floral that they nearly seem perfumed. Some are large, firm, and dark green, used for grating into salads or making chutneys. Some are so soft that they’re difficult to cut without mashing and they melt when they hit your tongue.
Every year, a mango market suddenly appears for the few months of mango season. While every grocery store has a proud mango display with at least six different varietals on offer, the mango market is where you can find at least 20 booths with every single kind of mango and buy them from the farmers who grow them. We were so excited to join a tour of the market put on by Five Oceans because it seemed so daunting that we wouldn’t have known where to begin on our own. With the tour, we got information sheets to describe many of the different types and then had the opportunity to taste 12 kinds. Sadly, we mistook our bite of raspuri for a sendura and failed to win the blind taste test at the end. Shame. We consoled ourselves by buying a big bag of our favorites: Sendura, Alphonso, and Mallika. We have since returned for more of the above plus some Raspuris. It’s our intention to go every week and eat mangoes every day while we can. We hear that we can cut them into chunks and throw them into the freezer to enjoy off-season as well. We’ll certainly do that!
We learned a new trick to preparing mangoes to add to Melissa’s dad’s instructions. After cutting around the pit and slicing the fruit into long strips, slide the mango along the rim of a glass as close to the peel as possible. It gets every bit of the fruit while avoiding any bacteria on the peel.