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11 Curious Things You Ought to Know About Mangoes

Everything you need to know about this exotic, tropical fruit.

I’ve included this mango article as part of my "Tropical Fruit Inspiration Series," in which I list a number of curious things about some of my favourite tropical fruits and plants. The tropical vegetation is an endless source of inspiration for me, in design, in the kitchen, even spiritually. Sweet mangoes are the all-round fruit we get to eat every day.

1. Mangoes come in all sorts of colours, shapes, and sizes.

There’s about 400 varieties of mangoes recorded by the USDA. They come in various sizes. Some trees bare small mangoes that can be 5 centimetres long, while the long varieties can grow up to 25 centimetres. They contain a single pit that sticks to the pulp.

A mango can have a round, oval, or kidney shape. Its skin can come in a wide variety of colors and color combinations, including green, yellow, and shades of yellow, like orange-ish yellow and yellow-red. Many cultivars are blushed in tones of pink, yellow, purple, or red. 

2. Mango plants are native to Southeast Asia and India.

Mangoes are grown in tropical and subtropical countries. In India, Pakistan and the Philippines, mango is the national fruit. Three countries sharing the limelight. The mango tree was declared the national tree of Bangladesh in 2010.

In Southeast Asian countries, the small Indian Mango, also known as “the common mango,” is a popular type. India produces the most mangoes globally, followed by China, Thailand, Indonesia and Mexico, which is the largest exporter of mangoes in the world. Although India is the largest producer, it consumes most of its own mangoes. 

3. Where does the name mango come from?

The Latin name for mango is Mangifera indica, which literally translates to “mango-bearing plants from India.” People in India used to call the fruit “Aamra-Phalam,” which later, after several long transformations, became the “mango” we know today. In other countries, this sweet smelling fruit is known as manga, mangga, mangot, mangou, and mangue.

4. The Indian yellow is made from urine of cows fed on mango leaves.

"Goddess Bhadrakali Worshipped by the Gods" from Freer Gallery of Art

The Indian yellow is a type of popular organic pigment colouring found in India between the 15th and the 20th century. The golden yellow color is popularly used for watercolour painting and tempera paints. It is known around the world as snowshoe yellow, Indischgelb, amarillo indio, purrée, puerrea Arabica, peoli, amarillow Indian, and other names. Its composition, magnesium euxanthate, is made from the urine of cows that were fed exclusively on mango leaves. The production of this type of yellow was later stopped because the leaves were found to be harmful for the cattle. 

5. Mango tree is the original evergreen.

The mango tree is a tropical plant, so it survives the hot climates. It is a fruit-bearing evergreen tree that often yields in double-crop harvests. The trees can live for a long time, up to 300-years-old and still bearing fruits.

Mango trees grow flowers–small, white, five-petal flowers. Some varieties have grey-ish even pinkish flowers. The plants can grow in various well-drained soils, as long as they get full sun. 

Although the fruits are enjoyed everywhere for its taste and for its health benefits, the leaves and woods are known to be toxic. 

6. Mango is the king of fruits.

Mango has a reputation as the king of fruits for the various health benefits it offers. This bright coloured, tasty fruit is considered one of the most widely consumed fresh fruits in the world, and every year we produce up to 20 million metric tons of mangoes. It has been cultivated for over 6,000 years.

7. Don’t judge their ripeness by the colours.

A red colouring or red blush on the skin of mangoes is not an indicator of ripeness. You’ll be surprised to know that some mangoes can be green but are ready to be eaten. So the best way to tell if a mango is ripe is to give it a gentle squeeze. If the fruit feels soft, then it’s probably ready. Smell the area near the stem to be sure. A mango that is ready will give off a sweet, fruity scent.

8. Mangoes have different flavours.

Mangoes can have many differing flavours. The taste of mango is a combination of three chemicals belonging to the ester, furanone, and terpene classes. How a mango would taste is determined by the balance of these three chemicals, so mangoes from one cultivar can taste very different from another.

9. Cook mangos for every meal.

Mango juices are of course a healthy choice, but you can do more with the "King of Fruits." Sweet mangoes are a popular ingredient for home desserts. Chop your mangoes and mix them into puddings, serve them with sticky rice and coconut milk—the way they do it in Thailand, or turn them into ice cream. Mangoes are also used to make fruit bars, pies, smoothies, and sorbets.

Like pineapples, mangoes can be turned into marinades and sauces. Adding mango and avocado to your salsa will make a refreshing side dish. Mix your mango chunks with greens, grains, and some beans to make colourful mango salads. Add them to your waffles for breakfast. Include mango slices with sandwiches, wraps, and rolls. You can even add mango to breads to make sweet mango bread. 

10. Mangoes are nutritious.

They are packed with 20 different vitamins and minerals. The unripe ones are high in Vitamin C, and the ripe ones contain more Vitamin A. The fruit contains papin, which is an acid-based marinade that helps in meat tenderization. It also contains antioxidants known to be effective against many diseases, including diabetes. One cup of mango contains only 100 calories.

11. Mangoes are the most consumed fruit in the world!

Everywhere in the world, and in its home in Southeast Asia, mango is consumed. There are many popular varieties of mangoes around the world. The Haden is a popular cultivar introduced in Florida in the 20th century. The Tommy Atkins make up the majority of mangoes sold in the US and the UK. Other varieties are Valencia Pride, Edward, Kent, and Alphonso.

Photo by Marco VerchCC BY 2.0, via Flickr

Know someone who should get to know mangoes? Or anyone who needs to try this fruit for the first time? Consider forwarding this article to them and share it on social media. 

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