Mango Madness

On Sunday, Aug. 17 the Waipa Foundation held their second annual Mango & Music Festival. A large variety of mangos were for sale from three farms including Moloaa Organicaa and Hula Daze. Yossi Johnson and his wife, Kuʻulei Punua, of Ka Hale Ohai Farms, offered samples of 21 varieties of mangos.

What’s growing

Ka Hale Ohai Farms grows Bennet Alfonz, Brooks Late, Dwarf Julie, Edwards, Florogan, Golden Glow, Haden, Hikiau, Himiyuden, Huapala, Jakarta, Keitt, Kini, Kiran, Lampour Banashan, Mahajanok, Mapalehu, Nam Dac Mai, Pirie, Rapoza and White Pirie.

Mangos

There is nothing like a perfect mango. When ripe and depending on the variety, skin color can range from green to blush to crimson over a deep yellow under-color. Inside, the flesh is bright yellow or orange. If it’s a good one, the flesh is silky, sweet and extremely juicy. Haden and Rapoza are two popular varieties on Kauai.

Hula Daze Farm grows my favorite mango variety, which is called Ice Cream. I’ll never forget the first time I tried one. My husband, who is a mango fanatic, had brought one home from Maria Whatmore, who was at the Vidinha Stadium farmers market (Fridays 3 p.m.) Time stopped as the sweet, juicy flesh filled my mouth. I no longer heard the birds chirping and I only had eyes for this perfect, plump mango. I reveled in every succulent bite and when I was finished, it felt like I had returned from a distant land. To this day, whenever it’s mango season and I see Maria, I always ask if she has Ice Cream mangos.

Unfortunately, Maria and her husband, David, have few Ice Cream mangos this year. In fact, the mango season is late. This is because hard rains early this spring knocked flower blossoms off the trees. The West Side did have a bountiful harvest and now the East Side and North Shore markets are seeing mangos.

The first documented date of when mangos were introduced to Hawaii is in 1824, when Captain Meek of the brig Kamehameha brought small mango plants from Manila. These were divided between Don Marin, a horticulturist in Honolulu, and Reverend Goodrich, a missionary in Wailuku, Maui.

The original wild mangos were small fruits with scant, fibrous flesh, and it is believed that natural hybridization has taken place in Southeast Asia between M. indica and M. sylvatica Roxb. Selection for higher quality has been carried on for an estimated 6,000 years and more than 500 varieties have been named in India.

The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii lists more than 100 varieties of mangos, but only 31 are recommended for commercial or home garden use.

Season: Mango season in Hawaii varies on climate conditions, but they usually begin ripening in April and are available throughout October. Mangos command high prices because supply never meets demand.

What to look for

Use your sense of smell and touch when shopping for ripe mangos. Skin color varies widely, so that is not an accurate indication of ripeness. All ripe mangos should have a mild, fruity aroma, especially at the stem end, and they should yield to gentle pressure. Avoid soft, bruised or wrinkled fruit.

Storage

Firm ripe mangos should be stored at room temperature for up to one week. Fully ripe fruit will store in the refrigerator for an additional week.

Preparation

Mangos are related to poison oak and poison ivy. The sap is usually washed after harvest, but it’s best to wash them again before handling.

Mangos have a large flat seed in the center of the fruit, which clings tightly to the flesh. When you hold up a mango, you’ll see that two sides are not as plump as the other two. The plump side is where most of the flesh is. Begin about 1/2-inch from the stem and slice through one side. Repeat with the other side. If you run into resistance, that’s the seed. Just move your knife a little further from the center.

Once you have two “cheeks,” score their centers in a crosshatch pattern and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Gently peel the skin from the remaining centerpiece and eat the flesh from the seed. This is the best part for many people. I just score the edges with my knife in 1/2-inch notches and cut the flesh into a waiting bowl.

Mangos are best eaten raw, but if you find yourself with excess they can be added to appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. You can use them to make a thick curd, luscious pie, snack bread, ice cream, sorbet, juice, dressing, salsa, jam, jelly, preserves and chutneys. Green mangos can also be used in chutneys, relishes and pickles, or eaten raw with shoyu and vinegar.

Tip

Mangos like warm, dry growing conditions. Too much moisture can leave black dots on the skin, which does not penetrate the flesh. If you see a black-speckled mango at the market, go ahead and buy it. Just make sure other conditions are met (see “What to look for” above).

Health benefits

One cup of ripe mango contains 107 calories, zero fat, 3mg of sodium, 24g of sugar, and 1g of protein. It also contains 76 percent of the daily recommendation of vitamin C, 25 percent of vitamin A, 61mg of Omega-3 fatty acids and 23mg Omega-6.

Marta Lane graduated from a 12-week organic farming course on the North Shore and went on to become the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture manager. Marta demystifies exotic produce and introduces people to Kauai’s farmers during her farmers market class. For more information, visit www.TastingKauai.com.

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