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    Mangos Came to Mexico

    Many foods are delicious, some foods we crave, and a few foods inspire passion. One food embodies it all: mango.


    And to Mexicans, mangos are as basic to taste memories as apples are to Americans. 

     

    “I remember mangos practically from my birth,” says Ricardo Muñoz, chef at the Azul restaurants in Mexico City. “I'm originally from Tabasco and Veracruz, in the southeastern part of Mexico—two of the leading states for growing and eating mangos. I've always been surrounded by mangos, ever since I was a kid, and so the mango is also the first fruit I really remember.” During mango season (April, May and June) everyone practically forgets whatever else is around and everyone just eats mangos.” Perhaps an exaggeration, but that's what passion does, especially when refined by custom and history.

    Mangos were introduced to Mexico from the Philippines in 1775 as part of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade route which brought porcelain, silk, ivory and spices from China to Mexico in exchange for New World silver. At some point, along with the other exotica, mangos made the same East to West journey. Now the Manila mango is among the most beloved varieties of mango in Mexico. Though there's plenty of love for other varieties, including Ataulfo, Haden, Criollo, Petacon, Tommy Atkins, Keitt and Kent, to name a few.

    And although some varieties don’t make it up to the U.S., many travel well—the Ataulfo, for example, is easy to find in the U.S. and is probably Mexico's second favorite variety. While some mangos are so tender they are difficult to eat except out of hand, preferably leaning over a sink so you're not drenched in the exuberant juices, the golden Ataulfo's creamy texture, often described as “buttery,” holds up better when sliced or diced. Its smooth, almost avocado-like texture and its mildly tart sweetness means this mango is quietly adaptable to many cuisines. “Not all mangos arrive to market at the same time,” Muñoz says. “Mexicans have learned to eat different varieties of mangos as the season advances.” Fortunately, as more cultivars are developed and the growing season has lengthened, the season of mango has lengthened, too.

    The mango is quite compatible with the spice and complexity of Mexican food. Its flavor thrives in a culinary crossroads like Mexico City, where 1,000 year-old pre-Columbian traditions exist alongside haute cuisine, cutting edge trends and culinary traditions inherited from indigenous people, Spain, France,  

     

    the Mideast (and, of course, North America), the mango thrives. According to the Culinary Institute of America Center for Latin Studies, “no other place in Mexico provides more insight into the ingredients, regional foods, and culture [of Mexico]” than Mexico City. The mellow mango slides in and complements all of it. Mango salsa or mango guacamole is great with chicken, pork and fish, the primary proteins of Mexico. Mango slices balance out the starch of rice, beans and corn. And the simple flavor combination of mango, chile, lime, and salt is iconically Mexican.
     
    Vendors sell mangos in street markets and carts all around Mexico City. Martin Jimenez started selling mangos when he was 16—33 years ago. His taste for the fruit hasn't waned.
     
    “Here, most Mexicans’ favorite way to eat mangos is to peel them and eat them, without even slicing them. It tastes better. That's the most traditional way here. People peel them and eat them whole. And people here eat them ripe. Very ripe. But I've seen people from other countries come and want to eat the green mangos. Colombians eat them green. I met a guy from Honduras who also ate green mangos—really green ones*.” He shakes his head. “Look how ripe this one is. Wouldn't you like to try it? I'll slice it.”

     

    “The mango is without doubt the king of the tropical fruits,” declares Muñoz. He adds, “Here's something interesting: We are very festive in Mexico, and there are lots of cakes served at different moments in the year. But there are rarely homemade cakes. One reason for this, which I learned doing extensive research, is because we have so much fresh fruit all year long in Mexico. And when there are mangos in the house, all you want to do is slice and eat them with a spoon as dessert. It can be the most delicious thing. The mango doesn't need any help from humans.”

    *This reference to green mangos is a nod to level of ripeness. It’s important to keep in mind that judging a mango by color isn’t the best determination of ripeness; instead, squeeze the mango gently. To learn more about selecting a ripe mango, click here.

    Get the full Share. Mango. Love. Mexico experience here.

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