Mango Herb: Health Benefits, Uses, Facts

FR: Mangue GER: Mango IT: Mango

SP: Mango, Manguey BOT: Mangifera indica FAM: Anacardiaceae

This is one of the oldest tropical fruits and has been cultivated for six thousand years. It is a native of India (where they still grow the best mangoes) but today is grown in almost all tropical countries. There are many varieties. At worst, this fruit is small and fibrous, with a strong taste of turpentine; at best, it is of beautifully firm but melting texture and has a most exquisite acid-sweet flavour. Many people regard this as the world’s finest fruit. (The mango should not be confused with the mangosteen, a fruit native to Malaysia, and another claimant to the world title. Mangroves are again different. They are trees and bushes of tropical swamps.)

Mango Herb: Health Benefits, Uses, Facts Photo Gallery

The mango tree is big and spreading, with dark green leaves and copious shade. Mango groves in India are cool and full of birds; in them it is possible to satisfy a taste both for ornithology and mangoes under the same roof. Although the fruits vary greatly according to variety, a typical ripe mango would run at not more than three to the pound, be oval in section, have a smooth but tough thin skin, coloured anything from dark green to yellow or red. Inside would be a pulp varying from yellow to the colour of canned peaches, and, in the middle, a large flat stone from which the flesh will not cleanly separate. Mangoes must be exactly ripe.

In India, ripe mango is used to make sherbets, fools, jam and ice creams. There are canned mangoes and bottled mango juice but unfortunately neither of these products have much flavour relationship to the fresh fruit. Ripe mango pulp is also available dried in slabs. It has an unusual flavour and is sweet.

Unripe or green mangoes (usually of prolific but unrefined varieties) are an important flavouring ingredient in curries, chutneys and pickles. The taste is sour and astringent with a pine flavour. Dried slices of unripe mango – leathery and white or biscuit coloured – can be bought at Indian spice shops. It is also available as a powder, known as amchoor or amchur (am or aam being the usual Hindustani word for a mango). Amchoor is particularly used as a souring and flavouring agent in vegetarian curries. Some Eastern dishes also call for the dried seed of the mango: the flowers are eaten in Siam, and the tender leaves in Java.

There are people who dote on sweet mango chutney, a particularly British taste which came into vogue at the end of the last century, but Indians are more likely to relish the dry pickles made from salted green mango. These pickles, whether hotly spiced or mild, are second to none in a country famous for pickles ‘… from the Andhra avkhai with pungency matured over months in subterranean jars to “bud fruit” pickle of the far south, nearer in flavour to olives than to other mangoes’.

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