The mango is a juicy stone fruit belonging to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous tropical fruiting trees, cultivated mostly for edible fruit. The mango is native to South Asia, from where it has been distributed worldwide to become one of the most cultivated fruits in the tropics.
Mango trees grow up to 130ft tall and are long-lived, as some specimens still produce fruit after 300 years. The leaves are evergreen, but when they are young they are orange-pink, rapidly changing to a dark, glossy red, then dark green as they mature. Over 400 varieties of mangoes are known, many of which ripen in summer. Ripe, unpeeled mangoes give off a distinctive resinous, sweet smell.
Mangoes have been cultivated in Asia for thousands of years and reached Southeast Asia between the fifth and fourth centuries. The mango is now cultivated in most frost-free tropical and warmer subtropical climates – with almost half of the world’s mangoes cultivated in India alone, with the second-largest source being China. Other cultivators include Hawaii, Florida and California in the USA, Central America, Brazil, the Caribbean, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Mangoes are widely used in cuisine. Sour, unripe mangoes are used in chutneys and pickles, or may be eaten raw with salt, chili, or soy sauce. A summer drink called Mango Lassi is popular throughout India, and this is prepared by mixing ripe mangoes or mango pulp with buttermilk and sugar. Ripe mangoes are also used to make curries in India. The fruit is also added to cereal products such as muesli and oat granola.
Unripe mango may be eaten with bagoong (especially in the Philippines), fish sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, or with dash of salt (plain or spicy). 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 flavouring and major ingredient in ice cream and sorbets, especially in south east Asian countries.
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). In Mexico, it is popular on a stick dipped in hot chili powder and salt or as a main ingredient in fresh fruit combinations.
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 flavoured with coconut, then served with sliced mango as a dessert in Thailand. In other parts of Southeast Asia, mangoes are pickled with fish sauce and rice vinegar. Green mangoes can be used in mango salad with fish sauce and dried shrimp.