Fresh Florida Mangos Make Summer Even Sweeter

Mangos are available from June through September

The mango is the world’s most popular fruit, and all it takes is a bite to understand why. The abundant flesh is golden, juicy, fragrant, and sweet, and its flavor can be likened to a blend of pineapple and peaches. Many Americans associate the exotic taste of mangos with romantic, faraway places, such as India, Thailand and Malaysia. They might be surprised to learn that delicious, high-quality mangos are being grown much closer to home—in Florida.

“Because of its climate, Florida grows many tropical fruits that are not cultivated commercially anywhere else in the continental United States,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson said. “In fact, Florida farmers grow over 20 varieties of tropical fruit, including coconut, lychee, starfruit, longan, papaya, passion fruit, and, of course, the beloved mango.”

Florida mango season runs from late June through September. Most of the state’s commercial mango groves are found in Miami-Dade County, in the agricultural communities of Homestead and the Redland. In the last 10 years, Florida mango growers have faced stiff competition from Mexico. To keep the industry viable, Florida growers have become even more creative by experimenting with new products and exploring new markets.

“Florida growers are now selling green mangos and specialty mangos to ethnic and gourmet shops,” said Louise King of the Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida, Inc., a group of about 100 growers dedicated to supporting and advancing Florida’s tropical fruit industry.

Green mangos are mangos that are picked before they are ripe. They’re firm and tart, tasting a little like sour apples—and they’re very popular in Asian cooking. In India, they’re a common ingredient in pickles and chutneys. In Thailand, they are shredded and eaten in salads. Now, green mangos are catching on in the United States.

“There is also increased interest in organic mangos,” King said.

It seems reasonable that Florida farmers should succeed in finding a niche for their high-quality products: Tropical fruits are experiencing a surge in popularity in Florida and around the country. Experts say the trend is due to the increasing diversity of our population coupled with our growing health consciousness.

“As people become more aware of the importance of a healthy diet, they’re eating more fresh produce, and they’re looking for variety,” Bronson said. “Tropical fruits have been enjoyed around the world for generations, but many people in this country are just now discovering how delicious and nutritious they can be.”

Mangos are an excellent source of vitamin A, which promotes eye and skin health, and vitamin C, which boosts the immune system. Both vitamin A and vitamin C are antioxidants and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Mangos are free of sodium and saturated fat and rich in potassium and fiber. A serving (half a mango) contains just 70 calories.

When shopping for mangos, look for firm, well-shaped fruit with shiny, taut skin that is free of cuts and blemishes. Color isn’t always the best indicator of ripeness, since skin color differs from variety to variety.

According to King, the best way to select mangos is by smell and touch. “Choosing a mango is a lot like choosing a peach,” she said. “A ripe mango will have a little bit of give to it and a nice aroma.”

Mangos continue to ripen even after picking. To ripen a mango, store it at room temperature away from direct sunlight, checking it daily to prevent over-ripening. It’s also a good idea to turn the fruit occasionally.

“Once your mango is ripe, you want to go ahead and eat it as soon as you can to enjoy the best flavor,” King said. “Treat mangos the same way you would peaches and you’ll be fine. The same rules for selection and storage apply.”

Mangos can be refrigerated once ripe, but their flavor is most intense at room temperature. Rinse under cool running water before eating or preparing.

“My favorite way to eat mangos is fresh — over the kitchen sink,” King said. “They’re good in ice cream and smoothies, too. Some people make smoothies and add a little rum. You can make mango bread and mango cobbler. You can use mangos in all the ways that you would use a peach. They’re wonderful dried. Just slice them thin and put them in the food dryer for a while and you’ve got something really delicious.”

Mangos work equally well in both sweet and savory dishes. Enjoy sliced mangos as a topping for pancakes and waffles or as a taco fixing. Use them in sauces on grilled chicken or fish, or try one of these tasty recipes. For more “Fresh from Florida” cooking ideas, visit www.Florida-Agriculture.com.

Mango-Avocado Salsa
2 Florida mangos, diced medium
1 Florida avocado, diced medium
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1 tablespoon Florida jalapeno pepper, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate until use.

Spicy Oysters with Mango Dip
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Florida mango, pureed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Florida honey
3 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pint Florida oysters, shucked

Make dip by combining sour cream, mango puree, salt, and honey. Refrigerate until needed.

Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Combine bread crumbs, flour, curry powder, white pepper, and paprika. Drain oysters and dredge in bread crumb mixture. Fry in hot oil. Serve with mango dip.

Yields 4 to 5 appetizer portions.

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