Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fruit of the month: champagne mangoes

Okay, this is actually a bit of a cheat, because I first tried champagne mangoes a week or two before May had started. But since I'd already done my fruit of the month for April, and since I didn't have any other good ideas for May, I decided to go ahead and use it.

Here is what champagne mangoes look like. As you may or may not be able to tell from the photo, they're slightly smaller than most mangoes sold in stores, and they have a more uniform light orange color as opposed to mingled red and green. They also have a thinner rind and a smaller pit, which makes them much easier to manipulate. I got some standard mangoes on sale at Aldi last week, and I ended up cutting two of them open before they were really ripe because I couldn't tell by feel or by smell whether they were ready to eat. By contrast, the champagne mangoes, with their thinner rinds, give easily beneath squeezing fingers when they're ripe, and the ripe-mango scent is clearly present to the nose. And when you do cut into them, it's much easier to separate the flesh from the flat pit than from the large round pit of a normal mango. The thin rinds also come away from the flesh much more easily. The only thing you have to be careful about is resisting the temptation to scrape the remaining flesh from the peel with your teeth; I tried it and it left my throat feeling irritated and my mouth sort of cottony, which I guess serves me right for being uncouth.

The champagne mangoes have a very sweet, delicate flavor, less tart than a typical mango (especially one that isn't fully ripe). I'm not sure how they got the name "champagne," since their flavor is nothing at all like the dryness of champagne—but the name did suggest to me that perhaps they would go well with strawberries, which we also happened to have some of in the fridge. So I cut up half a mango and a few strawberries into roughly even-sized chunks and mixed them together in a nice salad. The combination was indeed very tasty, although the strawberries tasted unusually tart when set off by the extra-sweet mango. But the two flavors complimented each other well, especially when I took care to get both mango and strawberry in each spoonful. So far one whole mango has been used up in this way, and another half a mango got eaten plain. That leaves me six and a half mangoes to enjoy. Probably most of them will just be eaten straight, but I might also try some in a salsa or a smoothie, like this mango lassi. The sweetness of the champagne mango will probably be even better than regular mango for setting off the tanginess of the yogurt.

So, will champagne mangoes become a regular part of my diet? Well, they are a bit expensive ($5 for eight fruits), and they are imported from Mexico, so they definitely have a bigger carbon footprint than local produce. I probably won't eat them when there's fresh fruit in season around here, which there is for most of the summer and fall (from the first strawberries in May through the last apples of November). But I think these champagne mangoes will make a very welcome supplement to canned and frozen fruit (and cold-storage apples) throughout the long winter and spring.
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