Being tropical, mango trees like a frost-free environment. Despite our warm winters, only some varieties of mangos can be grown in Texas, and those produce fruit in the summer months. The Keitt mango, which grows here, is green on the outside and bright orange and sweet inside. The Francis mango is grown on farms in Haiti—it tastes spicy-sweet and has meaty flesh. The Tommy Atkins mango, another variety which will grow in Houston, is sweet and mild, boasting a long shelf life. It is high in Vitamins A and C, and is firm-fleshed. Kent mangos taste like a cross between pineapple, peach and mandarin oranges, while nam doc mai mangos are aromatic and sweet, and good for pickling or making dipping sauces.
In Season Right Now
One recent newcomer to the American market is the Ataulfo variety, with its creamy smooth flesh and small pit. The season for Ataulfo mangos is March to June. When they are ripe the skin changes from green to dark yellow. You can currently find these seasonal treats at H-E-B, Whole Foods, Central Market and other grocery stores. They don't have stringy fibers, making them especially good for smoothies.
How to Store and Prepare this Fruit
Mangos are ripe and ready to eat when they become fragrant and yield to gentle pressure. Keep them on the countertop until you cut them, and then keep them in the refrigerator. To prepare one, slice off two pieces on either side of the pit, then cut a crisscross pattern into each cut side without cutting through the skin. Turn these sides inside out and remove the mango cubes.
There are plenty of tempting mango ideas to try, including juices and smoothies, chilled sweet fruit soups, and salsas. Combine mango with jicama, pineapple, lime juice, chile and salt for a Tex-Mex themed fruit cup, or blend with water, lime juice and agave nectar to make an agua fresca (go ahead and throw in some tequila or rum, too). Combined with onion, red peppers, onion, cilantro and lime juice, mangos can make a delicious salsa, which goes with grilled chicken or fish, or chips.
This fruit can be baked into breads, cobblers, muffins or tarts, or added to frozen popsicles or sorbets. Toss mango cubes with your chicken or shrimp salad or use them in marinades, chutneys or curries. You can even top sliced bread or crackers with cream cheese or Brie, sliced strawberries and mango. As you can see, this is a versatile fruit!
In a Starring Role at: El Tiempo Cantina
This restaurant has a number of locations sprinkled all over Houston, including Montrose, Greenway Plaza, South Gessner and Katy. There are plenty of appealing choices here including the campechana, a shrimp cocktail with not only mango but also strawberries and avocado, and a homemade cocktail sauce. If you prefer to eat gluten-free, the simple mango-jicama salad might suit you as an unusual appetizer. It comes with greens, strawberries, a black pepper mango sauce and some whipped cream on the side. The parrilla salad has greens, avocado, mandarin, jicama, praline pecans, mango, cotija cheese, mole sauce, and a citrusy cilantro dressing. Order the pechuga tropical if you're in the mood for breaded chicken tenders with pineapple, onion, bell peppers and mango. If you're more thirsty than hungry, you can't go wrong with an El Tiempo Cantina mango 'rita—or two!
Recipe: Spicy Mango Sauce
If you have time, mince the mango by hand rather than using a food processor to keep the fruit's cellular structure intact. This preserves the fine texture of the sauce. Serve this as a sauce with chicken or a meaty fish such as monkfish, salmon or swordfish, or try it as a dip for chips. This is a very spicy sauce, but you can omit some or all of the chile paste if mild is better suited to your palate. This would also work as a marinade. As a sauce, it makes enough for two or three servings.
- 3/4 cup finely minced fresh mango
- Juice of 1 fresh lime
- 1/2 minced small Thai chile pepper
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1/4 cup lemon juice or seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon hot chile paste
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Stir all the ingredients except the cilantro together in a dish until well combined. Cover the dish and let the sauce sit at room temperature for about half an hour. Stir in the cilantro and serve.
Stay tuned every week to learn more about what's fresh and exciting at the market and discover where you can enjoy the flavorful bounty of the season.