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August, 2010

Long Live the King of Fruit

By Nancy Eisman

The mango is the most popular and widely consumed fruit in the world, and has earned the title of the king of fruit
.

Of all tropical fruit produced worldwide, mangoes represent half of the entire production. Native to India and cultivated in Asia for over four thousand years, mangoes are now grown in sub-tropical and tropical regions around the world, including California, Florida, and Mexico. Introduced to Malaysia and eastern Asia by Buddhist monks around the 5th century B.C., mangoes were first introduced into California in the late 1800’s.

Indian Mangoes
Enjoyed year-round but most plentiful in summer and fall, over 1,000 varieties of mangoes are grown, but less than a dozen are commercially available. The most common variety we see in the U.S. is the Tommy Atkins mango, also the most common variety available in the United Kingdom. Other mango varieties that are pretty easy to find are the Keitt, Haden, Kent, and Ataulfo. The small, golden-yellow Ataulfo is also called champagne or honey mango, and it is aptly named for it’s smooth and creamy sweet flesh, which is practically fiber-free, and its lush high flesh to seed ratio. While other mango varieties have varying degrees of fiber, and also range in size and color – shades of green, yellow, orange and red – all mangos provide those refreshing tropical flavors that take your taste buds straight to paradise.

Mangoes are rich in a variety of phytochemicals, minerals, dietary fiber, and nutrients including vitamins C and A, and potassium. These health benefits coupled with their delicious juiciness and versatility make mangoes a fantastic ingredient for everything from drinks (lassies, smoothies, aguas frescas, cocktails, smoothies), appetizers (salsas) and salads, entrees including curries, and many dessert recipes (sorbet, ice cream, and sticky rice). Unripe mangoes are also popular in salads, slaws, pickles and chutneys and dried mangoes are great for snacking and for adding to baked goods.

When selecting a mango look for smooth, unblemished skin, even though you must always peel the mango before eating. Ripen at room temperature until the mango yields to gentle pressure and you get a nice whiff of its distinct fragrance. To celebrate summer and warmer weather I decided to make something cold and fresh, with a light and limey twist. This Mango Fool is made with whipped coconut milk cream instead of a dairy version, with some grated ginger and lime added for even more freshness. This is a perfect light but elegantly cool dessert for a warm summer evening.

Mango Fool with a Twist

For the coconut “whipped cream”:

Place 1 can of coconut milk (not lite) in the refrigerator and chill at least 2 hours but overnight is better. Open the can and spoon the thick coconut cream on top into a small bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar, and whisk to combine. Then whip the mixture with an electric hand mixer just like you would heavy cream, adding a little of the liquid coconut milk as needed if the cream is too thick. Set this aside.

For the mango puree:

Cut 2 mangoes into cubes and put in a blender or processor with ½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, and ½ teaspoon of fresh lime juice. Blend/puree until smooth. Fold the mango puree into the whipped cream a bit at a time, gradually adding more until everything is incorporated. Divide the mixture into 4 glass dessert dishes then garnish with a little lime zest and some toasted coconut. Chill at least 1 hour before serving.