The King of Mangoes in the US

This entire site could have been about mangoes. Seriously. Nothing but mangoes. I don’t know how I went this long without talking about mangoes. Different varieties of mangoes, what time of the year you get them, how do you know the perfect day to cut them? What are the different ways to eat different kinds of mangoes? Yes, there are different ways to eat mangoes. Which ones should you juice or not juice? Yes, I love mangoes. I had to write this blog post because on Saturday at Costco, my wife took our cart and got as much distance between us as possible while still being able to watch what I was up to. My son joined her out of embarrassment *. People were staring at me as I moved around large numbers of mango boxes. The mangoes at the top said they were Tommy mangoes. I don’t like those. But through a tiny hole two large boxes (each containing two layers of small boxes) down I saw a mango labeled Kent – the king of the mangoes available in the US. Tommy mangoes look just like Kent so don’t be fooled. I kept moving boxes from the pile I was in onto other piles, took out a large container box and kept going until I reached a group of mangoes labeled Kent. Victory!

I’m from Bombay, where the king of mangoes is the Alphonso (aka Hapus) mango. Growing up we would be the earliest to get mangoes among friends. We had to get the first Hapus of the season. I think half our household income in the month of March went towards mangoes. My ancestry is from the state of Gujarat and we also have a queen of Mangoes, the Paayri. There also a mango king in the North of India, the John Snow of mangoes – called Langda. The Kent mango tastes like somewhat of the combination of Hapus and Langda. While the Alphonso mango still beats Kent, this is the closest you can get to it easily in the US and is undoubtedly the King in the West. Kent is available in grocery stores everywhere generally in June/July from North American Sources and December/January from South American sources. Often it is even available out of season.

Back to my Costco saga. If you shop at Costco and the supplier they use doesn’t label the variety on the mango, ask the manager. Our local store now staples their packing slip near the mangoes if they are not labeled. You can guess who asked.

Now, about the Kent mango. This is a tricky one to tell when it is ripe. Some of them are ripe green, some have a reddish top and they could be ripe too. If they get soft, they are overripe and often will turn black inside. So you have to cut them at the right time. Slightly under-ripe Kent mangoes taste decent but if you get them just right, they are out of this world. The best way to tell ripeness is I’d say by looking at a combination of softness – still firm but with a slight give – and the number or wrinkles. All these photos are of a perfectly ripe Kent mango. Here is a top view showing the wrinkles:

* Later at the Indian store, I started sifting through okra while I had my son hold the refrigerator door open. He just said, “not again”, and let the door go as I moved on to the second box of okra to find better ones. Joys of having a foodie parent.

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