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VOL. 37 | NO. 19 | Friday, May 10, 2013

Mangos become my new favorite fruit

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Move over papayas, I’m on a mango kick. And, strangely, I didn’t even know I liked them until a few weeks ago. Crazy, huh? Well, they are now my new favorite fruit.

Not long ago, while on a trip, I bought some mango frozen yogurt. It was so good, I ordered a mango during breakfast the next morning. I loved it! In fact, I could have just eaten mangos and nothing else.

And now, I’m still eating mangos. Fortunately, with present-day shipping methods, mangos are in stores year round, and I have found all kinds of ways to eat them other than raw, which is my favorite.

The juicy flesh of a mango is orange-yellow in color. Its flavor is delicate and sweet, with just a hint of tartness. A high-quality mango should have very little fiber content and minimal sour taste.

The mango, first grown in Southeast Asia, has been growing for more than 4,000 years. The trees are evergreens and can reach to 60 feet tall. It takes a mango tree four to six years after planting to start producing edible fruit.

Most of the mangos sold in the United States are imported from Mexico, Haiti, the Caribbean and South America.

Selecting the ripeness of mangos can be done by either smelling or squeezing. A ripe mango will have a full, fruity aroma at the stem end. They are considered ready to eat when slightly soft to the touch, much like a ripe peach.

Ripened fruits can be red, yellow, green, orange or any combination. Mango season lasts from April to August.

Mango health and nutrition facts:

n Called “The king of the fruits,” the mango is one of the most popular and nutritional fruits. It’s often labeled a “super fruit” because it’s rich in pre-biotic dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidant compounds. (Trust me, those things are good for you.)

n New research shows mangos have been found to protect against colon, breast, leukemia and prostate cancers. Several trial studies suggest polyphenolic anti-oxidant compounds in mango are known to offer protection against breast and colon cancers.

n Mangos are an excellent source of vitamin A and flavonoids like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in carotenes is known to protect the body from lung and oral cavity cancers.

n Fresh mango is also a good source of potassium.

Cinco de Mango Salsa

1 medium jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
2/3 cup of diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup of diced red onion
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
3 large ripe mangos, peeled, pitted and diced

Mix everything together and serve with tacos, fish, pork chops – it goes with everything!

n It is also a very good source of vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), C and E. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body to develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.

Vitamin B6 is required for GABA hormone production within the brain. It also controls homocystiene levels within the blood, which may otherwise be harmful to blood vessels, resulting in CAD and stroke.

Further, it has moderate amounts of copper, which is required for the production of red blood cells.

n Additionally, mango peel is also rich in phytonutrients, such as the pigment antioxidants like carotenoids and polyphenols.

So, does that mean you can eat the peel? That depends…

Here’s what Jennifer Shultz Nelson, unit educator of horticulture at the University of Illinois Extension, has to say about this issue:

“Unfortunately, mangos have some not-so-nice relatives in the plant world. Mangos are in the family Anacardiaceae, the same family as poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak. Like its nasty relatives, mangos produce the oil urushiol, a mixture of several chemicals that produces a characteristic skin rash in sensitive individuals.”

Fortunately, only the mango tree’s sap and the fruit’s skin contains the urushiol, and in small quantities. Some sources say the fruit’s flesh also contains very low levels of urushiol. If a person is sensitive to urushiol, they may potentially have a reaction after touching the mango’s skin, particularly if sap is present.

You need to determine your sensitivity to the peel of a mango and proceed accordingly.

I am highly sensitive to poison oak and ivy, but I had no problem with eating the peel, which I found to taste just fine. A lot of people eat the peel; a lot of people don’t. It’s personal preference.

So here’s a great recipe that’s so yummy. I served it with some grilled pork chops, and it was a real winner, even with my “finicky” eaters.