The Mango: America's Favorite Melon A fruit indigenous to the Indian subcontinent, mango belongs to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous species of tropical fruiting trees in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. Commonly cultivated and used for food, Mangifera indica, or the common mango, is cultivated in many tropical and subtropical regions and distributed widely in the world. In several cultures, its fruit and leaves are ritually used as floral decorations at weddings, public celebrations and religious ceremonies.
Mango is generally sweet, although the taste and texture of the flesh varies across cultivars, some having a soft, pulpy texture similar to an over-ripe plum, while the flesh of others is firmer, like a cantaloupe or avocado, or may have a fibrous texture. For consumption of unripe, pickled or cooked fruit, the mango skin may be consumed comfortably, but has potential to cause contact dermatitis of the lips, gingiva or tongue in susceptible people. In ripe fruits which are commonly eaten fresh, the skin may be thicker and bitter tasting, so is typically not eaten.
Mangoes are widely used in cuisine. Sour, unripe mangoes are used in chutneys, athanu, pickles, side dishes, or may be eaten raw with salt, chili, or soy sauce. A cooling summer drink called panna or panha comes from mangoes. Ripe mangoes are typically eaten fresh; however, they can have many other culinary uses. Mango Lassi, a popular drink made throughout South Asia, is created by mixing ripe mangoes or mango pulp with yogurt and sugar. Ripe mangoes are also used to make curries. Aamras is a popular pulp/thick juice made of mangoes with sugar or milk and is consumed along with bread.
Mangoes are used in preserves like moramba, amchur (dried and powdered unripe mango) and pickles, including a spicy mustard-oil pickle. Ripe mangoes are often cut into thin layers, desiccated, folded, and then cut. These bars are similar to dried guava fruit bars available in some countries. The fruit is also added to cereal products like muesli and oat granola. Unripe mango may be eaten with bagoong (especially in the Philippines), fish sauce or with dash of salt. Dried strips of sweet, ripe mango (sometimes combined with seedless tamarind to form Mangorind) are also popular. Mangoes may be used to make juices, mango nectar, and as a flavoring and major ingredient in ice cream and sorbetes.
Mango is used to make juices, smoothies, ice cream, fruit bars, raspados, aguas frescas, pies and sweet chili sauce, or mixed with chamoy, a sweet and spicy chili paste. It is popular on a stick dipped in hot chili powder and salt or also as a main ingredient in fresh fruit combinations. In Central America, mango is either eaten green mixed with salt, vinegar, black pepper and hot sauce, or ripe in various forms. Toasted and ground pumpkin seed (called pepita) with lime and salt are the norm when eating green mangoes. Some people also add soy sauce or chili sauce.
Pieces of mango can be mashed and used as a topping on ice cream or blended with milk and ice as milkshakes. Sweet glutinous rice is flavored with coconut then served with sliced mango as a dessert. In other parts of South-east Asia, mangoes are pickled with fish sauce and rice vinegar. Greenmangoes can be used in mango salad with fish sauce and dried shrimp. Mango may be used as a topping to shaved ice along with condensed milk.
Nutrients and phytochemicals
Mango is rich in a variety of phytochemicals and nutrients. The fruit pulp is high in prebiotic dietary fiber, vitamin C, polyphenols and provitamin A carotenoids.
Mango contains essential vitamins and dietary minerals. The antioxidant vitamins A, C and E compose 25%, 76% and 9% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) in a 165 grams (5.8 oz) serving. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, 11% DRI), vitamin K (9% DRI), other B vitamins and essential nutrients such as potassium, copper and 17 amino acids are at good levels. Mango peel and pulp contain other phytonutrients, such as the pigment antioxidants – carotenoids and polyphenols – and omega-3 and -6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Mango peel contains pigments that may have antioxidant properties, including carotenoids, such as the provitamin A compound, beta-carotene, lutein and alpha-carotene, polyphenols such as quercetin, kaempferol, gallic acid, caffeic acid, catechins, tannins, and the unique mango xanthone, mangiferin, any of which may counteract free radicals in various disease processes as revealed in preliminary research.
Phytochemical and nutrient content appears to vary across mango species. Up to 25 different carotenoids have been isolated from mango pulp, the densest of which was beta-carotene, which accounts for the yellow-orange pigmentation of most mango species. Peel and leaves also have significant polyphenol content, including xanthones, mangiferin and gallic acid.