They may be available year-round, but mid-summer is peak season for the juiciest, ripest, most flavorful mangoes possible. As the summer heats up, so does mango consumption. Mango has been called the pumpkin spice equivalent of the summer season, thanks to its prominence on menus during all summer dayparts. It’s being used not just in its traditional role in salads, smoothies and desserts, but also as an ingredient in spicy-sweet combinations of salsas and stir-frys, too. Because it has enzymes that tenderize meats, it’s often used as a marinade.
Beware of “mango mouth”
“Most grocery store shoppers are familiar only with the Tommy Atkins mango variety, but in fact there are more than 1,000 different varieties growing worldwide,” says Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations at Melissa’s Produce and “Produce Guru” for Cooking Light magazine. If the only variety you know is Tommy Atkins, you haven’t had the full mango experience, Schueller says. “Even though it’s the most widely available, it’s not the best-tasting. It’s very stringy, so you’re likely to end up with what we in the produce industry call ‘mango mouth,’ when all those strings get between the teeth.
Schueller, who describes himself as a “mango connoisseur,” shares his favorite mango varieties:
- Ataulfo, prized for its creamy texture, has been nicknamed the “champagne” of mangoes.
- Australian varieties are firm and fiber-free, which makes them a good choice for salads and smoothies.
- Keitt Green are the only varieties grown in the U.S. They remain bright green even when ripe.
- Indian varieties are small, yellow-green gems. They have a creamy texture and minimal stringiness.
Schueller stresses that summer is the time to add mangoes to the menu. “You’ll get more selection and varieties, and prices are much more competitive.” A true mango enthusiast, he hopes to see more creative uses of the tropical fruit. “It’s the most frequently consumed fruit in the world, but it’s only number 13 in U.S. consumption,” he says. “Apples and pears are fine, but I hope this summer is mangoes’ moment in the sun.
Chef Pace Webb demonstrates how to break down a mango in this video
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