Cooking and eating through a new culture

March Mango Madness

OMG! It’s mango season! Mangos, mangos everywhere! I am so excited!

Seriously, my New Years resolution was to eat a papaya, a mango or an avocado every day and I am sticking to it. I’ve eaten an avocado over the sink at 9:30pm just to keep my promise. The problem I was facing was that good avocados had been disappearing at the market, replaced with larger, mexican avocados that cost more and are less flavorful. So far, we have had a steady stream of papayas and I still buy them from the shy farmer with bright blue eyes, but lo and behold, the market was PACKED with huge, luscious mangos. Some places you can get 4 kilos for 1000 colon (that’s two bucks!).

I cannot pin point where my love for mangos came from. I did have a job that allowed me to “sample” fruits from all over the world and from that, I have developed some odd cravings. Mango being the tamest. Once, while in the Caribbean, I was given a bag of mangos and passion fruit from a local farmer I had stopped to chat with. At the hotel, I did not have access to a kitchen and the first slice with the butter knife left over from lunch, produced a juicy mess. The simple action of putting fruit to mouth was covering me  in pulp to my elbows. So…I just got naked and ate them in the tub. Seriously. I was sober too…and unfortunately alone.

Mangos, besides being delectably delish, are a storehouse of vitamin C, copper, iron, magnesium and beta carotene (Vitamin A).  These antioxidant carotenoids are known for  their protective power against certain cancers. Various enzymes in mango help in digestion by breaking down proteins, not to mention the added “push” of fiber. Mangos also supply ample potassium, making them ideal for anyone looking to replenish energy after physical activity. The high vitamin E content is suppose to boost sex drive too. So what’s not to love?

Mangos are a member of the cashew family of flowering plants; other species include the pistachio tree and believe it or not, poison ivy. People who are allergic to cashews or natural rubber latex can suffer a potentially serious “cross-reactivity” from eating mango due to similar antigens in the plants.  And the skin of a mango can induce a rash in people who are sensitive to poison ivy. The flesh is safe for them to eat; they just need to ask someone to take on mango-peeling duty.

Mangos may have originated in India but they are all over Central America, growing up to 60 feet high. They are a lovely shaped tree with a broad evergreen canopy and strong arching limbs. We have one on the property in Cahuita and it’s not uncommon to see them in many back yards. There are over a thousand varities worldwise, but the six major varieties available in North America are: Ataulfo (grown in Central America), Francine (Haiti), Haden (South America), Keitt (United States), Kent (Central American) and Tommy/Atkins (South America).

"Candy" mangos. So much flavor packed into these little guys.

I have never been big on Indian cuisine (dot, not feather), so don’t expect any chutney recipes here. Besides, mangos are best served fresh and uncooked. Smoothies and fruit salads may be my favorite way to eat them, but I do make a ravishing sweet and spicy shrimp gallo.

Clean and de-vien as many shrimp you are hungry for. Saute up some onion and chopped red pepper in a mix of olive oil and butter. Add shrimp with as much Caribbean Jerk sauce you feel comfortable with (I make my own) and cook the shrimp until pink. Spoon some shrimp mix onto a heated tortilla and top with cubed mango. It’s so wickedly easy to make and tastes just as sinful. Rafa has been working some crazy hours and this is a quick easy meal to whip up at a moments notice. Especially, if went I want some of those aphrodisiacal qualities to kick in.


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