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Sweet, sweet mango

By Shirley Hall

I anxiously watch our mango tree for the first fruits to change colour. A chilled, juicy mango is my favourite treat while watching nighttime television, or sitting with a bowl of chow.

About 4,000 years ago, the delicious mango originated in East India in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Mangoes were one of the first fruits humans farmed. According to Indian folklore, Buddha was given a mango orchard by a faithful follower so that he could rest in its cool shade. Many believe that Buddha meditated under a mango tree.

Asian kings had vast orchards of trees. An Emperor of Delhi, Akbar (1556 to 1606), had a 100,000 hectares of mango trees. India is still the largest producer of mangoes with very little exported. Mangos travelled to the Caribbean in the mid-1700's. More mangoes are eaten throughout the world than any other fruit. There are over 20 million metric tonnes of mangoes grown yearly.

Bangkok, the largest city in Thailand, is nicknamed 'The Big Mango' just as New York is "the Big Apple'. Mango is the national fruit of India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Mango is a true 'comfort food' because, like papaya, mango contains a stomach-soothing enzyme. Mangoes not only make you feel good, they are great health-wise because they contain plenty of fibre, vitamins A and C, and potassium. One large mango has about 100 calories with no cholesterol and half of the necessary daily fibre.

There are over 1,000 varieties of mangos throughout the world. Mango's botanical reference is mangifera indica. Trinidad has starch, rose, Julie, calabash, doodoo, turpentine, Graham, ten-pound, spice, grafted and others.

My personal favourites are doodoo and calabash.

Green mango can be prepared into kutchela, chutney, preserves, takari, anchar. Choose your favourite type and seek out a tree vendor.

Unless you choose a dwarf grafted mango, allow at least a circumference of 50 feet for the tree. Mango trees should be topped to keep them at a reasonable picking height or they can reach 100 feet tall.

It should bear about the third year.

Plant in an area that drains to avoid root rot. Keep adequately watered. In the dry season, water this tree with at least ten gallons a month for excellent fruit. Tend with a cup of high nitrogen fertiliser mix monthly, and watch for pests. Your tree should give you a lifetime of shade and delicious fruit.

Although mangoes are usually quickly consumed, keep unripe mangoes at room temperature to ripen, which may take a week. Inside a paper bag might help them ripen faster.

Ripe mangoes may be refrigerated for two weeks. They can be frozen, dried, cooked in syrup or puréed.

In the Hindu Vedas, mangoes are referred as the 'food of the gods.'

MANGO CUBES

Serve succulent mango pieces without the drippy mess. Good to use in all recipes.

Without peeling, cut or filet the fruit from the seed, score flesh into squares about 1/2- to 3/4-inch in size, cutting to, but not through, skin. Gently push the fruit cubes up and apart. Cut chunks from the skin to serve on toothpicks.

MANGO DIP

Fabulous on shrimp, fish, and pork cutters or biscuits.

Ingredients: one cup peeled diced mango, one TBS brown sugar, one TBS lime juice, one quarter hot pepper seeded and minced, one TBS chadon benee chopped fine, a pinch salt,

Method: Puree mango, sugar, lime juice, salt, and hot pepper either using a blender or a tedious small fork. Add chadon beni and refrigerate in an sealed container over night. This is a perfect sauce for fish, shrimp, pork or chips.

MANGO RICE

Ingredients: One large ripe mango skinned and cubed, one and a half cups long-grain rice, one TBS oil – olive or canola preferred, one can unsweetened coconut milk, salt and spice to taste

Method: In a large pot, heat the oil over medium

heat. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the coconut milk, water, and salt; bring to a boil. Stir in the mango. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove rice from heat and fluff with a fork. Place a clean, dry dish towel over the pan, cover with the lid, and let steam for 5 minutes before serving. MANGO REFRESHER Called Aam panna in East Indian, it is a tasty and healthy concentrated beverage to refresh from the intense summer heat. Ingredients: four green raw mangoes, one TBS Kosher rock salt, one cup sugar, dry mint leaves, half TBS powdered cumin, water. Add some watermelon for more vitamins and a beautiful colour. Method: Chop mangoes into pieces and boil them in a in a sizeable pot. After they soften peel and mash. In a blender combine mango pulp with sugar, mint leaves, cumin powder, and salt. Pour concentrate in a bottle. To use put one fourth part of the mixture and three parts water in a glass. Mix well and serve with ice. MANGO ICE Ingredients: two cups mango puree, two TBS lime juice, Two TBS brown sugar, one half cup water Method: Combine water, lime juice and mango puree in a suitable pot over low heat. Stirring constantly add sugar. Remove from heat and cool before pouring into a freezing dish. An hour later dump partially frozen mango ice into a blender and whirl for a few seconds to break up ice crystals. Pour into cube trays, fully freeze and enjoy. Did you know? Everybody loves the mango. More fresh mangoes are eaten every day than any other fruit in the world. So much that it is known by the same name in various languages. The mango is known as the 'king of fruit' throughout the world. The name 'mango' is derived from the Tamil word 'mangkay' or 'man-gay'. When the Portuguese traders settled in Western India they adopted the name as 'manga'. This luscious fruit is mango in English and Spanish, and only slight different in French (mangot, mangue, manguier), Portuguese (manga, mangueira), and Dutch (manja). In some parts of Africa it is called mangou, or mangoro. India produces more than half of the world's mango crop nearly a billion tonnes on two and a half million acres. There are more than 500 different varieties of mango in India. Supposedly a French ship, from an Indian Ocean island named Isle de Bourbon with several varieties of mango, sailed to Martinique, but was seized as a prize of war by Admiral Rodney. These mangoes eventually found themselves on all the islands. More than one mango may be spelled mangoes or mangos. Health Note It is believed mangoes strengthen and invigorate nerve tissues in muscles, heart, and brain. One small mango provides a quarter of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C, two-thirds of vitamin A, some vitamin E and K, fibre, phosphorus and magnesium. Mangoes are particularly rich in potassium, which can help reduce high blood pressure. Mangoes have enzymes that help clean bowels. Mangoes are an antidote for all toxic effects inside the body. Mangoes also contain pectin, a soluble dietary fibre, shown to lower blood cholesterol levels. Chinese medicine uses mangoes to treat anaemia, bleeding gums, constipation, cough, fever, nausea, sea sickness and to help with weak digestion. When the mango is immature the amount of vitamin C is higher, as it ripens the amount of beta carotene or vitamin A increases. Dermatitis can result from contact with the resinous latex sap that drips from the stem end when mangos are harvested. The mango fruit skin is not considered edible. — Author of The New Caribbean Home Garden Handbook.

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