Mango season has just started in Suriname, which means that we are looking at flourishing mango trees and colorful piles of juicy mangos in local markets and at fruit stalls along the roads.
The scientific name of the mango tree is Mangifera Indica. It grows in the wild in parts of Southern Asia, from where it probably spread to East Asia, thousands of years ago. By the 10th century CE, the fruit was introduced to East Africa by Arabs, after which Portuguese brought it to Brazil at the beginning of the 18th century. The rest is history, as they say – as a neighboring country of Brazil, Suriname is currently blessed with a great mango tree variety.
Many hundreds of mango cultivars have been named, but not all climates are suitable for all cultivars. In Suriname, we have around 20 cultivars.
Mango trees are evergreens and can grow up to 40 m, carrying a dense crown with a 10 m radius. The leaves are alternate, averaging about 20 cm in length, and 10 cm in width. Check out the pictures that I took of a tall mango tree in my birthplace, on the Nature page.
Young mango leaves have a silky feel and a delicate pinkish color, which gradually turns into dark green as they mature. Mango inflorescences are composed of thousands of small flowers; only a part of those turn into a fruit and only part of the fruits mature. It takes three to six months for a mango to grow from blossom into a ripe fruit.
Mangos are juicy and delicious, would you not agree? They are considered stone fruits because of their hard, stone-like kernel, which covers the seed. Ripe mangos vary in size and color – from green to yellow and red on the outside, and from yellow to orange on the inside. Mango sizes range from small ones the size of a kiwi, to humongous kinds of each over 2 lbs in weight. Some mangos are quite fibrous, while others contain no threads.
Most of you probably know what a mango tastes like. Still, I will elaborate on the taste a little bit, since most mangos available in stores in the US, Canada and Europe are really not the champions. They are certainly not all bad. However, during my years in Europe, many a time I got myself an absolutely tasteless and/or rotten on the inside mango. They look perfect on the outside: nice, shiny and fat, with a pretty color.
However, the drawback of exported mangos is that they are often the kinds that boast features such as a long shelf-life and transportability, and they get picked way too early. Although they do continue to ripe during shipping and storing, they are nothing compared to sun-ripened mangos. Once you experience the truly tasty flavor of a juicy and aromatic sun-ripened mango, you will no longer settle for less! Check out some fresh mangos from Suriname below! I will show you two of my favorites!
This picture shows a bunch of purple mangos hanging from the tree in my yard. Don’t you just love the color? These mangos get kissed by the sun every single day, until their initially shy blush gets more and more intense, and their sweet fragrance starts spreading around the tree. In just a couple of weeks from now, they will be ready to fall off.
Purple mangos are quite thready. Yet, they have great taste and are much loved as one of the most popular mangos in Suriname. Over here, we call them Roodborstje, which would translate from Dutch into English as Red Robin – yes, the bird!
The wondrous thing about this tree of purple mangos is that it produces yellow mangos as well. Check this picture here – these yellow mangos are from the very same tree: same shape, same taste, same fragrance – just a different color. Some of these yellow purples mangos do get a red blush, but as you can see, the ones in this picture are really just plain yellow.
Some mangos keep their green color when they ripen, or only get a mild coloration. Look at these huge babies as an example. These large, elongated mangos originate from Indonesia. They are threadless, have a wonderful aromatic fragrance, and they are incredibly tasty. Just delicious! A favorite with many! And, they easily measure up to 20 cm.
Now, let’s talk linguistics, as a side note! Did you know that the plural of mango can be written either as mangoes or mangos? The word mango can be traced back to the spice trade between Portugal and the Kerala region in India, in 1498. During this time, the Malayalam word māṅṅa was introduced to the Portuguese, who then named the fruit manga. It is unclear when or why we ended up with the o at the end of mango. Should you happen to know, please do drop me a note!
Over here in Suriname, mangos are a tremendously popular fruit. Everybody loves them and many have one mango or the other as their favorite. People who are fortunate enough to own a tree, tend to brag about their mangos being the best! Personally, I often find myself buying Roodborstjes (Red Robins), because of their beautiful color – they just look appealing and, not the least, they taste terrific, too! They are thready, though. Another mango that I like a lot, is the giant pictured above: Golet – huge, sweet, no threads, and very tasty! So, there you have two of my favorite mangos. Next, let me show you a totally different one.
See, we also have mangos less well-known and less popular, such as Turpentine mango. Turpentine, you might wonder? That’s right! It so happens that all mangos contain a small amount of turpentine/kerosene. Should your mango smell of turpentine, though, toss it – do not eat it. However, there is a mango by the name of Turpentine mango, supposedly named for its turpentine taste. Honestly, I am not familiar with this particular mango. I just find it fascinating that it should taste like turpentine! I have been told, though, that Turpentine mangos are very sweet and tasty. Well, I do not know – I just thought I would tell you about it and show you what they look like.
Let’s move on to eating a mango! It may seem pretty straightforward, but dealing with a juicy mango can turn out to be no easy task – this is, if you do not want mango juice running down your arms and dripping off your cheeks! Surinamese kids learn to eat mangos by biting a small hole in the top and squeezing the mango so they can suck up the juice. When most of the juice is consumed, they peel the mango using their teeth and then eat the pulp around the pit. Another way to eat a mango is, of course, by cutting it up. This picture shows my favorite way to get mango cubes.
Except for ripe mangos, we love to eat unripe mangos, too! We use unripe mangos to prepare mango chutney, we pickle them, and eat them with salt and pepper as a snack! Delicious! And, who would refuse a glass of fresh mango juice?!
Finally, in case you did not know – let me tell you that mangos have wonderful health benefits! They contain 44% of the amounts of vitamin C and 11% of folate that we need on a daily basis. The yellow-orange color of mango pulp is because it is loaded with beta-carotene, which our bodies transform into vitamin A. Mangos also contain enzymes that help digestion!
If any time you should be in Suriname and fancy a mouthwatering mango, you will not have to look far – they are all over the place. If you do not see any, it is not the season.
When did you last have a mango?