Wednesday, 1 April 2009
It's Mango season and I'm up to my elbows in soft sweet splendidly golden pulp. Although we have a couple of mango trees on the farm, and they are easily spotted all around the area, they do not produce well in this climate. Mangoes like a long dry period to set and ripen their fruit and there's just too much rain here.
The mangoes I'm using come from the Pacific side, around Orotino. There are many farms but even more locals with a few trees selling their produce by the roadsides. The harvest began about 6 weeks ago and will continue until the first real rains, sometime in May.
Mango trees (Mangifera indica) are really rather beautiful. They are native to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and South east Asia. There they can grow very tall - over 90 feet and live very long, productive lives, some still fruiting at the ripe old age of 300! The mango is an evergreen with long (up to 12 inch) glossy, narrow dark green leaves. The flowers form on spikes and are small and white to cream coloured. They have a pleasant, sweet smell. The tree branches very nicely and can have a 30 foot crown: they provide good shade. In Costa Rica the trees are smaller and there are several cultivars, with three prominent varieties: Tommy Atkins, Haden and Erwin. We are using the Tommy and Haden fruits: the mangoes are a good size, with a small seed and soft non fibrous flesh. They are also very pretty - when I lived in California I raised lovebirds and the colours in my kitchen remind me of a small flock. I do believe my first bird was named Mango.
The mangoes we're using are ripe, but traditionally here mangoes are eaten green with salt and lime juice. There are many opportunities to buy small bags of sour, juicy fruit with a wedge of lime and a good pinch of salt from street vendors. Seemingly mango like this is very good for the digestion. I know the monkeys prefer them like this too, if the forest floor is anything to go by.
At last, after what seems like a long resting period, my dehydrators are busy again drying mango, salak and weekend bananas. We're also making mango chutney:
2 1/2 lbs mangoes
2 cups brown sugar
2 1/2 cups vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 inch piece ginger
1 scotch bonnet chili (or to taste)
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons coriander seed
2 teaspoons mustard seed
3 onions, chopped
Peel and dice the mangoes. In a blender process chopped chili, garlic and ginger with a little of the vinegar. Heat rest of vinegar with sugar, simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic / chili / ginger paste and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring. Add remaining ingredients and allow to simmer for 25 minutes stirring occasionally as it thickens. Pour into sterilized glass jars and heat seal. Enjoy on homemade crackers with cream cheese, or with anything really.