Copyright Linda Marcas 2003 - All Rights Reserved


Crank's Corner


                              Do You Dare To Eat a Mango?


    The other day, at the local grocery, I was cruising the fruit section and
looking for goodies, waiting for something to catch my eye.  On a whim, I
bought a mango.  I like to try weird fruits from time to time; every so often,
I'll find one that I like.  No one thinks kiwi fruit is strange anymore, but
when I was a kid, they were virtually unknown; if no one had tried them,
they'd still be a mystery.  I know how to peel a pomegranate, I can tell when
persimmons are ripe, and I think that kumquats dipped in sugar are a hoot.
Since this mango had come all the way from Mexico to North Baltimore, I
figured the least I could do would be to take it the rest of the way home.
    The mango had one of those little numbered sticky tags on it (what is
that number code, and who decides that a mango is a 4051, but an Anjou
pear is a 4416?), with a website to check out.  I vaguely remembered some
foodie guru on TV having done some nifty serving trick with a mango,
scoring a half and turning it inside out for presentation, so I checked the
website for eating instructions.  Sure enough, that trick was there, along with
simpler ways to slice or serve a mango, including one where you stick it on a
fork, score a cross in the skin, peel it like a banana, and eat it like a popsicle.
Simple, right?
    Wrong.  Maybe I let the mango get too ripe; maybe all the serving
instructions are a cruel hoax on the mango-buying public.  I expected
something similar to an avocado, where the pit would pop neatly out and I'd
have two hollow halves that I could scoop out with a spoon (a Serving
Suggestion  on the website).  I expected a thick skin, largely because of the
stick-it-on-a-fork method.  I expected juicy but firm flesh, like a cantaloupe
or a peach.  Well, blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be
disappointed!
    The mango was not too hard and not too soft, I thought, slightly
yeilding to gentle pressure, as per the instructions.  I cut the bottom end off
the mango, and was surprised that the skin was thin, like on a peach.  The
flesh was like a peach, too, at that point, juicy and smooth.  I tried to cut the
stem end off, but met resistance halfway through, some stringy fiber that
connects the stem to the pit.  I pressed harder, and succeeded in removing
the stem end, mashing it a bit in the process.  Then I cut down to the pit the
entire way around the mango, planning to separate the halves and do that
inside-out trick.
    Maybe I cut it along the wrong vertical axis, because the pit did not
separate neatly from the flesh.  Hubby suggested twisting the halves a bit, as
one does with a reluctant avocado; that maneuver resulted in a dripping
mess, where the skin and about a half-inch of the flesh slurped away from
what seemed like a good portion of the rest of the fruit, which adhered to the
pit with a desperate grip.  The pitless portion of the fruit was now a limp,
dripping blob, resembling not at all the tidy half-oval I'd seen on TV.
Nevertheless, I pressed on in my attempt to score and invert the mango for
serving.
    Granted, my knives are sharper than most people's, but the skin of this
mango was nowhere near as tough as that of a banana or even a smooth
green avocado; it was more like that of a pear, and the "peel it on a fork"
method would never have worked.  I did manage the score-and-reverse trick,
but the results were not stunning; I'd cut through the skin in several places,
and, while attempting to cut  the cubed bites of mango flesh from the
reversed skin, I cut it in several more.
    With dripping fingers, I managed to get a morsel of mango into my
mouth without dropping it.  Hmmnn......what does "tropical" taste like?  I
thought of carrot-flavored peach, with overtones of turpentine.  The mango
website listed one mango variety as having "a piney sweetness," but it
described only five of the over one thousand varieties of mangoes, and I
think it might have skipped this one, or "piney" is an understatement.
    I used a spoon to separate the other half of the mango from its pit, sort
of, and the ate the flesh by scraping it away from the skin.  Even the spoon
threatened to cut through the skin, and it would have been a lot simpler to
have eaten the mango, skin and all, like one would eat a pear.  But, for
reasons it didn't explain, the website stated that "the mango fruit skin is not
considered edible."  maybe it has something to do with mango wood and
leaves being poisonous (including the smoke from burning them), harvesters
getting contact dermatitis from the stem sap, and the mango's distant relation
to poison ivy and poison oak.  I sampled a tiny bite of skin; it didn't taste
awful, and I'm not dead yet.
    I used my spoon to scrape the rest of the mango flesh from the pit,
which resulted in a near-liquid puree.  The pit itself was a pale cream color,
best described as something like a 2" x 3" pumpkin seed, if pumpkin seeds
were covered with a half-inch of tough, stringy, vegetable fur.  Nibbling the
remaining pulp from the pit was, I imagine, something like flossing with
short shag carpet.
    Www.freshmangos.com boasts that more fresh mangoes are eaten,
worldwide, than any other fruit.  That's an amazing statistic, considering my
experience.  Mangoes are very good for you, loaded with vitamin C, Beta
Carotene, other anti-oxidants, digestive enzymes, and fiber; can millions of
mango-eaters around the world be wrong?  I probably did something wrong:
I'll have to experiment with my methods and degrees of mango ripeness.
Meanwhile, after reading this, do you dare to eat a mango?

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