Mango Days are here again

2014 – A Great Year for Mangoes

mango tree

This mango tree is fifty feet tall with a fifty foot spread. The fruit is exceptionally sweet and smaller than most varieties.

It is mid June and my three mango trees are raining mangoes. This year produced an exceptional crop. Just a couple months ago I looked up and saw the entire tree covered with golden blooms. I thought, wow we could have a big crop but the number of blooms is not an accurate predictor of the crop size. Some years an early rainy season results in poor pollination but this year was a little dry in the Spring. As the days grew longer, it was obvious the pollination worked well. The tree looked like it was covered by clusters of green grapes. Then the small mangoes began to fall and the clusters thinned out. But the mangoes were not growing very fast, they stayed small and green. As they became large enough to eat, I began sampling them and they were on the tart side. I was worried the crop, though plentiful, would be small, tart fruit. Then all of a sudden, the rain kicked in and those little green mangoes started to double in size overnight. Now with our almost daily downpour of rain these guys are bigger than ever and as sweet as can be imagined. I can collect 25 lbs each time it rains and typically 50 lbs or more in a single day.

Harvesting Mangoes

Mangoes - the low hanging fruit

Mangoes – the low hanging fruit

It’s tough to be a residential mango farmer. When the mangoes ripen and fall to the ground they bruise and often split. Harvesting them is a full time job. It is important to collect the mangoes as soon as they fall otherwise the ants or peacocks will ruin the fruit. A small split means the fruit must be washed immediately in an antibacterial wash then processed for eating or freezing. When so many fall, it is impossible to wash them all so I have to find friends and neighbors who can step up to the job of cleaning them before they spoil. Just getting the fresh mangoes to my friends is a tough job. I need to collect the good fruit and put it into containers for delivery. Ideally, the fruit should be hand delivered so it can be processed while fresh. Even a few hours delay in processing can make a big difference in the freshness. At the very least it should be rinsed in cool water and soaked in cool water with an small amount of antibacterial hand soap. Then each mango should be lightly scrubbed with a vegetable brush and sorted into four groups, (1) eat now, (2) eat tomorrow, (3) ripen on the counter, (4) discard. The most urgent group is “eat now” as this fruit will begin to spoil by tomorrow. The other three are self explanatory.

Almost Ripe Mangoes

Mangoes getting plump with liquid inside – almost ripe.

Mangoes begin to ripen from the inside outward to the peel. The unripe fruit is very tough and fibrous. As the fruit ripens, the fiber begins to dissolve into sugar. The fruit is hard as wood before it is ripe. As the fruit ripens the exterior remains firm and may seem that it is not ripe until it is almost too ripe. The fruit is best for eating when the skin is still a little firm and there is still a 1/4 to 1/8 inch fibrous shell protecting the sweet fleshy fruit inside. This is the point when the fruit tends to bruise from falling to the ground. One or two more days on the tree and the fruit will reach its peak sugar content but burst when it falls.

Mangoes - ready to eat!

Mangoes – ready to eat!

When the fruit is ready to eat it must be processed to preserve its fresh flavor as it will begin to ferment. When the fruit begins to ferment there is a very short period of time until the fermentation begins to sour. It may be as short as six hours to as long as a day depending on the storage conditions. During the first few hours of fermentation the fruit takes on a wonderful flavor as it has reached its peak sugar content and a slight amount of alcohol adds to the complexity of the taste. There is not enough alcohol to feel any effects but there is a unique, recognizable flavor just as might be recognized in a rum cake. Sometimes when the weather is very hot and there is no breeze to dislodge the fruit from the tree, it can actually start to ferment on the tree. These fruits are almost guaranteed to burst open when they fall and are frequently eaten by the squirrels and peacocks. But occasionally, they fall and only slightly split. If the fruit can be harvested before it is contaminated by birds or insects, it is perfect for making juice or puree for mixed drinks like a mango daiquiri.

Processing Mangoes

Find the mango seed

Find the flat sides of the mango seed.

Processing mangoes is not difficult but it is time consuming. The rewards are enjoying this special treat all year long. The first thing you will need is a very sharp paring knife and a large spoon. I recommend one of those never sharpen serrated edge paring knives they give away as promotional items at the grocery store. A fine cutlery paring knife works well too but will require frequent sharpening. The spoon needs to be stiff handled and ideally shaped similar to the curve of the mangoes. When I go into mass production mode, I opt for the larger metal cooking spoon with a good grip. If just preparing a dozen mangoes for breakfast, I’ll opt for a soup spoon. The process of getting the most fruit out of the mango begins with identifying the flat side of the seed inside the fruit. This is best done by cutting off a patch of the peel around the stem. The section should be about one or two inches in diameter so it exposes the top of the seed.

Remove the mango seed

Remove the mango seed

Once you can see the seed you will carefully cut along the upper and lower side of the seed to remove the seed leaving the fruit in the skin. The seed is shaped like a long oval clam shell. Poke the paring knife inside the mango using the hole you opened up to find the seed. Run the knife over the surface of the seed then rotate the knife all around the outside of the fruit keeping the blade of the knife flat on the surface of the pit. The knife should be tilted about thirty degrees upward to get most of the fruit on the side of the pit as well as the top of the pit. Remove the first half of the fruit from the pit. Set it aside and do the same for the bottom half of the fruit. The fruit is so sweet you may be tempted to suck on the pit to get the last bit of fruit but don’t do it! The pit has a rough surface and may be irregularly shaped. You are sure to get fiber between your teeth and could also break a tooth. Throw away the pit – do not suck the pit!

Mango fruit removed from the skin

Mango fruit removed from the skin. Its ready to enjoy.

OK, so you are one step away from enjoying the fruit of your labors. Grab your spoon and simply scoop the fruit out of the shell of the skin. Start with the edge of the spoon at the top of the fruit where the stem was attached and carefully separate skin from the fruit of the mango. Remove the fruit and place it on the plate and you are ready to eat. You will notice in the photo that this mango is perfectly ripe for eating. There is a very slight amount of firm, somewhat fibrous, flesh right next to the skin, some of which was not removed. In the center of the fruit, next to the seed, the flesh is soft but not jelly-like. This mango has not started to ferment. The texture and flavor are absolutely fantastic.

Enjoying Mangoes

Mangoes for Breakfast

Mangoes for breakfast, add granola, Greek yogurt, pistachios for a satisfying meal.

While they are fresh, enjoy! My favorite breakfast starts with six to ten mangoes (depending upon the size) served up cold with some stiff, unflavored Greek yogurt, granola, and pistachios. That meal keeps my appetite satisfied for eight to ten hours. It breaks the carbohydrate desire – which is a whole different story. But lets just say that I can lose some weight on this diet without feeling hungry, especially when I cut the carbs and gluten out of my dinner.

Preserving Mangoes

Fruit Protector

Fruit Protector

If you want to freeze the mango fruit, sprinkle the fruit with a produce protector. The active ingredient, ascorbic acid, is also known as Vitamin C. It adds a very slight tartness to the fruit and prevents discoloration. Mangoes freeze very well maintaining their color, flavor and texture. When thawed, mangoes will have liquid released from the fruit which is caused from the fiber matrix breaking down. This liquid should be poured over the fruit when served.

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