Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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How to Slice a Mango – a Messy Proposition

July 1st, 2009 · 17 Comments

photo by Ken Steinhoff

Wear a mac

The droll Brits have the right idea: The best way to eat a mango is standing in a bathtub, wearing a rubber raincoat.

The Brits have a ton of experience at this — since they tried to own India, and that country has arguably the most and best mangoes anywhere, they know a long bit about the slurpy side of these very juicy fruits.

Bananas eat mangoes’ dust

Fact: Mangoes are the most popularly eaten fruit in the world. In the coniguous U.S., they grow all around South Florida, the southern tips of Texas, Arizona and California. Hawaii (celebrating its 50th anniversary of statehood in August) has a terrific number of trees.

Down here, mangoes are heavy with fruit this year — it’s an on-again, off-again thing.  You can’t always predict how the season will go, but this year’s crop is quite astounding.

People down here sell their whole treesful – some are worth a few hundred bucks to the right buyer. You can get your pants seat filled with buckshot or torn by a pit bull if you mess with the fruit on the wrong mango tree without asking permission. Roadside mango stands are everywhere — the fruit selling from a quarter to a buck each. It’s whatever the market will bear.

Up North, they tell me, zucchini are this prolific soon — and people go around leaving the gourds on others’ doorsteps to get rid of a garden full they can’t handle. Same thing here with mangoes. Workplaces are filled with counters of them, and I saw some in a bank the other day, signs saying “Free – please take!”

squirrelThere are so many, they fall off (or are felled by the naughty one-bite-and-I’m-done squirrels) and rapidly rot in the yard from the hot sun. This makes for one slippery, smelly, fly-filled mess — anyone who’s slipped and fell on one and landed on a pile of the stinkers is shuddering right now.

The trick to cutting them

Mangoes don’t give up their seeds easily. Those who try to cut one like an apple or peach soon learn they’re wasting more of the fruit than slicing it the way most chefs do: vertically, on both sides of the seed.

Mangoes aren’t truly round — they have a “flat” side that parallels the seed. That’s how you determine where to cut.

The following video shows how it’s done. It’s straightforward – but a few caveats: Don’t peel it first. To cut them, use a firm cutting surface and grip the mango carefully with your hand well out of the way (a rubber glove helps grip it). The mango is so slippery once the juice hits the skin, it will slip, and you can chop off fingers in a heartbeat. Use a paring knife to peel it after slicing (our model is super confident with her knife — don’t try this at home, please!).

Bag and tag ’em, Probie

Once sliced, you can freeze the mangoes in a zip-top bag, or if you prefer, on a cookie sheet first then put the slices in a bag so they don’t all freeze together. They’re great for smoothies straight out of the freezer that way, or use in cooking or baking.

Date them; try to use them within 6 months for best flavor and texture. Any fruit in the freezer will take on odors if not sealed very well — double-bag them for long storage, or use a canning jar to freeze them. Or use them in the previous post’s recipe for making mango chutney.

Tags: Ask Jan · Wish I Knew

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ksteinhoff // Jul 1, 2009 at 11:32 am

    I’ll have you know that the model has been slicing mangoes for 30+ years and she still has all of her fingers.

  • 2 Jan Norris // Jul 1, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Not all cooks are as confident as Lila is with a knife. She, like many of us, is old-school and knows how to do this. My mother only used a cutting board for chicken — to cut through the bones.
    I wanted to cover my rear-end on that one.

  • 3 Lila // Jul 1, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Three things about freezing mangos…

    #1 — Mangos are the only fruit I have ever found that come out of the freezer with the same taste and consistency with which they went into the freezer. They can be eaten frozen or allowed to thaw and still taste just as good as fresh.

    After a length of time, there may be ice crystals on the frozen fruit, but holding them under cold running water until the ice is gone and placing them in a dish to thaw is all that is necessary.

    We thawed and ate some of the June 2008 crop in March of 2009. They were still spectacular.

    #2 waxed paper — place the mango slices (not touching each other) on a piece of waxed paper on the cookie sheet that goes into the freezer. When they are frozen, they can be removed much easier and placed in a FREEZER zipper bag. Also, by using waxed paper, you can layer them to freeze them if you are limited on freezer space and/or time.

    #3 mango milkshakes — If you have a bunch of mangos that are too soft to eat, or may have a soft spot from falling, don’t throw them away.

    Cut them along the seed as in the video, but do not slice them. Instead take a spoon and scrape the really soft fruit out of the ‘shell’ and into a blender.

    Blend lightly, just until the pieces are juice. This happens really fast. Add a few scoops of vanilla ice cream and you are done. Of course, you can add other things such as shredded coconut, berries , etc., but most of the people I serve want only mangos and ice cream

    To save these soft ones for later, pour the mango puree from the blender into quart FREEZER zipper bags and lay flat in the freezer. (Flat makes for faster thawing later.)

    Later, combine one bag (about 1-1/2 cups) of mango with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream in the blender… major WOW! even in the winter.

    P.S. Normally, I use a paring knife to peel the pieces. The video was a special occasion.

  • 4 Matt // Jul 2, 2009 at 3:03 am

    I suspect tomatoes are more popular ! Think of all the pizzas!

  • 5 Backyardavore // Jul 2, 2009 at 8:52 am

    I’m leaning toward agreeing with Matt.

    The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations Economic and Social Department Statistics Division estimated the worldwide production of mangoes to be 23 million metric tons in 2001. For the same year, the worldwide production of tomatoes for processing was 23.535 million metric tons. While that doesn’t look like a substantial gap, given the disparity in weight, more tomatoes have to be sold to meet the same weight.

    Those numbers may be dated. DidYouKnow.com reports ‘Tomato World’s Most Popular Fruit’ with 60 million tons of tomatoes are produced per year, followed by bananas (16 million tons), apples (36 million tons) and finally watermelons (22 million tons).

    You may be able to come up with more definitive numbers for 2004 by looking at the tables available from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations Economic and Social Department Statistical Division.

    I’d also toss in a vote for the humble grape. Given worldwide grape consumption, raisin consumption and wine consumption, I’d say grapes are in the top five especially if you consider unit volume instead of weight volume.


  • 6 Jan Norris // Jul 2, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I said “most popularly eaten.” Not grown.

    And sorry, but none of that data takes in the backyard snackers. There are more mangoes grown in yards than commercially. Not so with tomatoes or grapes or bananas.

    (BTW: something’s wrong with the banana figure quoted — if it’s only 16 million tons, mangoes and apples beat them by a mile.)

    I concede tomatoes are more popular commercially.

  • 7 Matthew Steinhoff // Jul 2, 2009 at 10:03 am

    The quantities are quoted in tons not units. Bananas weigh less thus the weight is lower while units are higher. That’s also why I say if you go with units and not weight, grapes would be by far the winner — I can eat 50 grapes in one sitting, try doing that with mangoes.

    Between ketchup and salsa alone, I have to believe that tomatoes are the most popularly eaten fruit and that mangoes would be well down the list.


  • 8 Jan Norris // Jul 2, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Those are cooked versions. Fresh, I’ll go with mangoes. Visit India and see how many people are walking around eating tomatoes.
    India is one of the most populous countries in the world and most say, the birthplace of mangoes.
    Their mango “lassi” is bascially the national drink there.

  • 9 Tree Trimming in West Palm Beach — Palm Beach Bike Tours // Sep 20, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    […] We kept our fingers crossed through the peak of hurricane season this year because both trees were full of mangoes and we didn’t want to lose any. (A mango for you folks who’ve never had them is sort of like a peach, but larger, with smoother texture inside. They’re great fresh and equally good frozen. Foodie friend Jan Norris has more info.) […]

  • 10 ksteinhoff // Sep 21, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Here’s a piece on how we keep out mango trees from blowing down in hurricanes. (Knock wood.)

    I’m hoping the trimming causes the tree to bear more fruit next season. 2009 was a great year for both our trees, but they were getting a little bushy and we wanted the canopies cut back to reduce wind loading.

  • 11 Jan Norris // Sep 21, 2009 at 11:40 am

    I’ve heard, and it may be anecdotal, that mangoes fruit great two years at a time, then rest, then back on again. Weather, of course, factors in.

  • 12 Johnny // Jun 14, 2010 at 10:49 am

    In the video, it looks like she left as much on the peel as was cut from it. Guess being Scott, I’d want to save more of the fruit.

  • 13 Jan Norris // Jun 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Agreed, but certain mangoes release from the skin better than others; our typical ones (Haden, Zill, Tommy Atkins and Kents – plus the Turpentine wild mangoes) are ferociously attached to the skins and pits. A good spoon makes a fine way to get more out – follow this video by Allen Susser, a chef buddy who wrote the book on mangoes – literally.

  • 14 Jane Henson // Jan 18, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Mangoes are the bomb…I’ve got a tree in my yard that was planted when I was 5! Springfeld…and unfortunately, they are a bit too stringy for some. Very sweet though.
    Thanks for the video…but hearing that knife going through a frozen mango was like fingernails on a blackboard to me. I can’t stand to hear someone chew on ice either…LOL
    How about a mango ice cream recipe?

  • 15 Elmer Diver // Feb 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    You’re blogging has really come on when I look back over previous posts. Actually I arrived here from a forum on an unrelated topic. Worth surfing sometimes. Thanks.

  • 16 Matt // Sep 1, 2011 at 5:24 am

    She’s right you know…The best way to eat a mango is standing in a bathtub, wearing a rubber raincoat Ive just done it.

  • 17 phoodietools // Oct 3, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Today, I went to the beach with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old
    daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.”
    She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab
    inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back!
    LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!

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