Mango season is something most Indians look forward to with good reason as India has really great mangoes. Of course, the first mangoes of the season are a bit bland and tasteless, probably because they are picked to early; but once the really ripe ones start coming in, they keep getting sweeter as the season progresses.
I’m always delighted when mango season comes around as mangoes are my favorite fruit. It wasn’t always like that, though. I used to think they were a bit strange tasting. Then one day a very close friend of mine, Dorothy, came to my room with a basket of incredible mangoes. She was absolutely bubbling over with enthusiasm, so I couldn’t refuse her offer to share them with me. She kept going on and on about how these were the best mangoes she had ever eaten. Her enjoyment was positively infectious, and by the end of our little feast, I was hooked! They were certainly the best mangoes I had ever eaten.
There are lots of varieties of mangoes. My favorite is the Alphonso, but I also like most other varieties I’ve tried. When shopping for mangoes, they should be just slightly yielding to pressure, but not bruised. Perhaps the most important test of a good mango is the fragrance. If it doesn’t smell like a good mango, it’s not going to taste like one, either. Some mangoes are all yellow, like the ones in the photo, while others can be almost all red. There are even mangoes that are ripe when green. Ask the mango seller or other shoppers which kind are sweetest. That’s something that changes as different varieties come and go, so you really have to ask each time.
There are so many fabulous ways to eat mangoes. One of the Indian favorites is mango lassi, which is made with mango pulp, yogurt and sugar blended until smooth. Purists don’t add water or even ice. My favorite place to get mango lassi is Sagar Ratna on the outer ring of Connaught Place in Delhi — but only during when they are using fresh mangoes. They make the best I’ve ever had. Almost worth a trip to Delhi just to have one! If you prefer, you can also get a mango milkshake there.
Fresh mango ice cream is another amazing treat. What else? Mango cheesecake, of course, though it’s hard to get a good one in India. Mango chutney is a world-famous Indian export that really adds interest to an otherwise uninspiring meal. And then there is mango parfait, mango pudding, mangoes with cereal, mangoes with yogurt, mango mousse, mango cream, mangoes in fruit salad, mango sauce . . . .
On the other hand, some people think that eating mangoes any other way than fresh off the tree is practically a sacrilege. One of the easiest ways to eat them is to cut wedges like the ones shown in this photo. One little caveat, though, don’t suck on the peel or you might get “mango mouth”, an irritation around your mouth that is quite uncomfortable. Not everyone is sensitive, but it seems to be quite common. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying mangoes. It’s easy enough to avoid.