Mangos originated in Southeast Asia and India; India is still the primary producer. Much of the mangos supplied to the U.S. comes from Mexico, Central America and Haiti. About 10% of the commercial crop comes from Florida. Rich in beta carotene, ripe mangos are incredibly delicious (and can be fairly messy to eat!). The three best varieties with smooth flesh that’s very sweet are called Haden, Kent and Keitt. More fibrous, and a bit blander, is the variety called Tommy Atkins. Ask your produce manager for the type of mangos for sale since they’re not usually identified by name.

Choosing mangos: Regardless of variety, a perfectly ripe mango will have an intense fragrance like sweet wild flowers, and supple texture. So, the best way to pick a ripe mango is to first grasp the fruit and apply gentle pressure. The flesh should yield in the hand without feeling “soupy.” Most mangos start off green and then develop patches of yellow, gold or red as they ripen. But the skins of some varieties, such as the Keitt, may stay almost completely green after ripening, with just faint patches of yellow. (So, give the stem end a good sniff to determine it’s fragrance level.) Little black speckles on the skin are a characteristic of a ripe mango but too many of these may indicate bruised or overripe flesh underneath. If under-ripe, place two mangos in a plastic bag and leave at a cool room temperature, which will speed ripening. Ripe mangos are best served slightly chilled, so store them (loose) in the refrigerator for up to four days.

How to cut a mango: Although there are literally hundreds of varieties of mangos (with a wide assortment of shapes and sizes), the types grown for commercial distribution are either oval, round or kidney shaped. All mangos have one large, flattish pit that runs down the entire length of the fruit, making it sometimes difficult to remove the flesh. A mango’s overall shape will determine the best way to remove the flesh.

  • For the flatter (kidney-shaped) mango: Using a sharp paring knife, make a slice vertically down either side of the stem and pit. You should have created two “almost halves.” (Don’t throw away the pit, just yet.) Use the pointy tip of a small paring knife to loosen the flesh from the skin of each half. Now, run the knife down the flesh several times vertically, then horizontally, creating little cubes (be careful not to cut through skin). Turn the fruit inside out (so the cut side pops outward). Slice the cubes off the skin. Slice off any clinging flesh from around the pit.
  • For the oval or rounder variety of mango: Grasp the fruit in your non-working hand. Use your other hand to score the skin lengthwise into four portions. Working with one side at a time, peel two quarters, like a banana. After peeling, slice flesh (through original score marks) and run the knife under fruit to free it from the pit. Turn fruit over and repeat with remaining side.

Skin reactions to mangos: If you love mangos but you’ve noticed that you get a rash around your mouth after eating them, there’s a reason (it also happened to me!). The skin of mangos (especially ones not fully ripe) contains a substance that can cause an allergic reaction. Although tempting, it’s best not to suck on the mango skins to enjoy any clinging flesh. It’s also a good idea to rinse and dry the mango well before slicing; however, gnawing on the pit is absolutely encouraged!

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