Mangoes. Sweet and delicious, healthy and invigorating, with all parts of the flesh being beneficial – is it any wonder they’ve been crowned the “king of fruits”?
They bring tidings of good fortune, have had poems written about them in Sanskrit, and the Buddha supposedly found rest and repose in a mango grove.
Let’s explore a bit about the history and culture of this tempting fruit, as well as its outstanding nutritional value – and then we’ll savor its remarkable taste with a couple of recipes.
The King of Fruit
The first known cultivation of mangoes began some 5,000 years ago in the areas known today as southern India, Burma, and the Andaman Islands that skirt the Bay of Bengal.
It’s believed that around the fifth century A.D., Buddhist monks introduced them to eastern Asia and Malaysia.
Persian traders travelling along the spice routes carried the seeds to western Asia, with the first trees being planted in east Africa in the tenth century.
Later, in the sixteenth century, Portuguese explorers brought them to Brazil, and from there they spread throughout South and Central America. By the mid-1700s they were growing in Barbados in the West Indies, and cultivation soon followed in Florida and Mexico by the early nineteenth century, and California in the 1880s.
Foodal recommends “Mango” by Jen Karetnick for all those that love the King of Fruit and need more recipes.
Known as the “king of fruits” because many kings and noblemen in Southeast Asia had their own private groves. This was a source of great pride, as they were considered to be a symbol of status and social standing.
This is also the origin of baskets of the finest mangoes being given as gifts, which developed from the belief that they brought blessings of good fortune to a household (as indeed they would have, if a local king thought it fitting to bestow gifts from his own grove!).
Mystical Urdu poets would eat the tender young buds, believing they would add sweetness to the voice of their poetry.
And the mango is well represented in iconography of eastern religions too, with the Hindu Lord Ganesh often seen holding one in an upturned palm as a symbol of attainment, while the Jain goddess Ambika is often portrayed sitting under a mango tree.
The popularity of the paisley print, with its teardrop shape, can be attributed to early Indian artists who revered the mango and used the motif in sculpture and jewelry. This was later embraced by Kashmiri weavers, creating shawls adorned with paisley patterns for ceremonial use.
Today in India, wreaths of its leaves still adorn the doorways and arches of homes during celebratory times and weddings, and the dried skin and seeds are used in Ayurvedic medicine.
In Australia, the first caseload of the year’s crop is usually auctioned off to benefit charity, a symbol of benevolence.
The fruit of the mango tree is what is known as a drupe; it has a fleshy outer structure called the mesocarp and a large, pithy stone in the center called an endocarp. Olives, dates and figs are also drupes, and cashews and pistachios are distant cousins.
With hundreds of cultivars, this fruit comes in many different varieties, sizes, and colors, all of which are grown in frost-free tropical and subtropical regions.
India is still the primary producer of this delicious produce, but most of the fruit is consumed within the country, leaving very little for export. The main exporters today are Mexico, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan and Brazil.
Health and Nutritional Benefits
One cup of mango contains 100 calories, zero fat and cholesterol, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein. One cup of mango will fulfill 12% of your daily fiber requirements.
The same serving will also provide 100% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, 35% of vitamin A, 20% of folate, 10% of vitamin B6, and 8% of both vitamin K and potassium. They also provide copper, calcium, and iron, and are rich in the antioxidants beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.
With their rich vitamin A content and antioxidants, they may also help to regenerate and restore skin cells, while the vitamin C helps to boost collagen production.
Several studies also suggest that this healthful fruit can be beneficial in reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and macular degeneration, but research is still ongoing and as yet the evidence is inconclusive.
To soften skin, try this Mango Body Scrub:
In a blender, combine the fruit of one mango, one tablespoon of honey, two tablespoons of milk and a half cup of sugar.
Rub vigorously on your skin in the bath or shower, and rinse with warm and then cool water. It will leave your skin feeling soft and supple.
How to Select and Store
Mangoes are a seasonal fruit, but with today’s global marketplace, they’re readily available in most stores year round.
Most commercial growers harvest the fruit while still green but mature, while organic ones are usually left to ripen on the tree.
Mangoes come in a variety of colors, including yellow, orange, green, and red, but a red hue doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ripe.
To judge ripeness, squeeze gently. A ripe one will have a slight give with fingertip pressure, and will smell sweet at the stem end.
An unripe mango has a sour taste and astringent effect on your tongue and lips, so choose carefully if you’re planning to eat it the same day.
Choose fruit with fully intact skin that’s free of any bruises or cuts.
Mangoes that are still a bit green will ripen more quickly if placed in a brown paper bag out of direct sunlight. Otherwise, store at room temperature for a few days.
You can also slow down the ripening process by putting them in the fridge, but whole mangoes should not be frozen.
You can, however, cut up the ripe ones and combine them with sugar and tequila to make a refreshing, fruity homemade sorbet. You’ll find the recipe here.
Restore fresh mangoes to room temperature when you’re ready to eat, to get the full natural flavor.
How to Prepare and Eat
If you need help with how to cut fresh mango with ease, we advise you to read our tutorial here. We’ll show you every step of the way, and will also provide an alternative peeling/cutting method. You’ll also find more selection and storage tips in this article.
- In Latin America, street vendors sell them skewered on a stick and peeled back for a cool, refreshing treat.
- In continuing Latin American tradition, cut them up and whip them into a tasty salsa.
- Enjoy them straight up with a shot of salt, lime juice or chili powder for a tasty flavor buzz.
- They’re a perfect addition to a cool fruit salad in summer.
- They work great in syrups and sauces.
- Try them in a salsa or chutney to accompany fish, chicken, pork and barbecued ribs.
- Superb in ice cream, they also make a great smoothie, or add to an Indian lassi yogurt drink.
Spicy Mango Chutney
This zesty chutney is a favorite as a relish for curry dishes as well as a topping for fish, chicken, and meat, and it also makes a fine accompaniment on a cheese platter. Plus, a jar is always popular for gift giving.
Spicy Mango Salsa
This salsa is great with your favorite tortilla chips, and makes a wonderful topping for grilled fish, chicken, or pork.
The sweet taste of mango pairs surprisingly well with hot peppers.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.