A Quest for the Ultimate Mango

In love with this sweet stone fruit? You're not alone. More than 1 billion are eaten every year in the U.S. Here's how to find, store and prep your prize.
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Fresh mangos being cut

Did you know? There are 44 types of mangos in the country of Nevis alone.

How many mangos can one person eat?

It was a question I had set out to answer this summer, in the best place possible: At the annual Nevis Mango & Food Festival, held in the mountainous Caribbean island that is one-half of the dual-island nation with St. Kitts.

Home to 44 types of mango, I'd spend the next four days eating mango in and on everything, from fish tacos and steak to cheesecake and salsa. I'd learn that mangos aren't simply "sweet"—depending on the ripeness and variety, the flavor ranges from sour to sweet-tart to richly sweet.

Mangos are not one-size-fits all, either. Amory Polly, Polly, Grafted and the Long Mango—in Nevis, each variety is destined for a different application.

According to Tony Piani, the executive chef at the island's Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Grated and Polly mangos are best for making salsas while the other varieties are ideal for making juices and purées.

Ripeness plays a factor as well. “For drinks and smoothies, the riper the better,” says Samuel Faggetti, executive chef of the Four Seasons Resort Nevis.

Chef Michael Henville, the chef for Nevis Island Health Ministry's school meals program, agrees. "If it’s super ripe and soft, then you can mash it, mix it into sauces and use it in gelatins for desserts,” he says. If unripe, shredded mango is excellent pickled and turned into a condiment.

Back home, I wasn't fatigued by my four-day mango fest. I surprisingly found my love of mangos had grown. Although Nevisian mangos are only available locally, fortunately this succulent stone fruit is also grown in many other countries in hundreds of varieties that range in season, making it widely available all year long.

Here's how to make the most of them:

Season: Peak season runs from March to December, depending on the type, with mangos being available to purchase year-round. According to the National Mango Board:

  • Mangos from Mexico are available from February through September and represent approximately 66 percent of the mangos consumed in the U.S. each year.
  • Mangos from Brazil are available in the U.S. in September and October and represent between 6-10 percent of mangos consumed in the U.S. each year.
  • Mangos grown in Florida are available from April through August.
  • Mangos grown in southern California are available in September and October.

Look for: Give the mango a gentle squeeze to gauge ripeness; ripe mangos will have a slight give to them. Most unripe mangos are green in color and take on hues of red, yellow or gold as they ripen, but it’s best to judge by feel because of all the different varieties. Depending on the cultivar, some flesh may be fibrous while others have very little fibers—both are fine to consume, it’s all a matter of preference.

Varieties: In the United States, you’ll most commonly find the Tommy Atkins mango followed by other varieties such as Haden, Francis, Keitt, Kent, Palmer and Honey (also called Ataulfo). According to the National Mango Board, while roughly 10 million pounds of domestic mangos are grown in Florida, California, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, most of the 1 billion-plus pounds of mangos sold in the U.S. are imported from Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Haiti and Guatemala. (This is because there aren’t enough U.S. producers to supply the domestic demand for mangos, so America has to source many of its mangos from other countries.)

Storage: Store mangos in a paper bag at room temperature to speed up ripening. Once ripe, place in refrigerator to slow down ripening for up to 5 days. Always remove the inedible seed and skin before consuming it. While the skin is fine for some to consume, bear in mind it contains urushiol – the same irritating compound found in poison ivy – which could cause allergic reactions if you’re sensitive to it.

Health benefits: At just 100 calories per one cup, mango is a healthy source of vitamins and minerals including immune-boosting vitamin C, vision-supportive vitamin A and dietary fiber, which aids in digestion and keeps you satiated.

Try it with: Seafood, shellfish, fish, pork and chicken, or incorporate mangos into smoothies, juices, salsas, marinades, chutneys, salads and desserts like cheesecake.

What to make:

Mango Chia Parfait

Shrimp, Mango & Black Bean Salad with Orange Vinaigrette 

Mango Mojito Chicken

Chipotle Lime Fish Tacos with Mango Coconut Salsa 

Asian Beef & Mango Salad with Cashews

Mango & Red Banana Bowl with Lemongrass-Infused Coconut Cream

Roast Jerk Chicken with Mango Sauce & Collard Greens

Thai Mango Zucchini Noodle Salad with Chicken

The Mango Sunshine Smoothie Bowl

Smoky Chicken with Mango Pomegranate Chutney