Mango: So Beautiful, So Tasty…
Packed with sweet, tropical flavor and a laundry list of healthy nutrients, mangos are the ultimate go-to snack. They’re
perfect on their own, blended into a smoothie, or even warmed up on the grill, and they’re available year-round from your local produce distribution company.
Technically, mangos are members of the cashew family, sharing the same bontanical roots as poison ivy and pistachios, although that’s where the similarities end. Unlike their poisonous relatives, mangos are stone fruits, a.k.a. ‘drupes’, which means they have a fleshy, edible layer that surrounds a single pit or stone similar to a peach, apricot, or nectarine.
The evergreen mango tree is native to South Asia, where they grow to heights of 120 feet or more, have roots that extend 20 feet into the earth, and can bear fruit for over 300 years. This juicy tropical fruit has long been an important part of life in India, where it’s held as a symbol of peace, life, and prosperity.
Legend has it that Buddha himself sought out mango groves to meditate in over 2,600 years ago giving rise to the long-standing practice of presenting mangos as offerings at Buddhist shrines and temples. It’s now the national fruit of the Philippines, Pakistan, and India, where mangos are plentiful both in the wild and at local markets.
Historians believe that Portuguese explorers first introduced the mango in Africa. That led to a growing interest in this tasty tropical treat, and mangos were then taken to Brazil where farmers began planting the first commercial mango groves. Mangos finally reached America in the 1860s where up until recently, they were considered to be an exotic, and expensive indulgence.
Slow To Grow, Tough To Harvest
Mangos are now grown in subtropical climates throughout the world, with India, China, and Thailand leading the way in worldwide production – India alone grows about 18 million tonnes of mangos annually, accounting for over 40 percent of the total global harvest.
Here in the United States, most of our mangos come from Latin American countries like Peru, Brazil, and Mexico, as well as Haiti, Guatemala, and Ecuador. There is a very limited commercial mango crop in the U.S. that is spread throughout Southern California, Florida, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii, with Florida growers harvesting around 5.5 million pounds of mangos yearly.
Mango cultivation is a long, slow process, thanks to the fact that a newly-planted mango tree requires upwards of five years of care prior to bearing fruit, and each tree can only be harvested once per year.
Picking Your Perfect Mango
Americans love our mangos – we’re the world’s biggest mango importer, bringing close to 900 million pounds of fresh mango into the U.S. every year. We also import about 20 million pounds of dried mango, 330 million pounds of frozen and preserved mango, and over 2 million gallons of mango juice.
When choosing a fresh mango to nosh on, look for one that has plump, round flesh around the stem – it’s one sure sign that it’s ready to enjoy. Sniffing around the stem can also give you some clues, especially if the fruit is past it’s prime. Just like other drune fruits, mangos will actually begin to naturally ferment, so if a mango smells like alcohol, give it a pass.
Unlike other fruits that reveal their ripeness based on the color of the skin, the skin of the mango varies based on how much sun it’s been exposed to, not how ripe it actually is. For example, the Keitt mango remains green even once it’s perfectly ripe, while the Palmer mango can range in color from red to yellow to purple.
Once you’ve picked out your perfect mango, go ahead and slice it open and enjoy. It’s great on it’s own, while it also pairs wonderfully with virtually any type of meat. Mangos are also low in calories, coming in at about 100 per cup, so you can feel good about indulging in this sweet, beautiful treat from the tropics!
About The Author
Produce Services of Los Angeles is a proud partner and produce supplier to over 400 restaurants throughout Southern California! We carry a full line of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables including mangos along with dairy and dry goods! Not only do we support local farmers and source local produce whenever possible, we support up and coming talent in the food community.