By the end of October, 400,000 trays of mangoes will be plucked from Australian farms each week. Australian Mangoes say good growing conditions mean this season’s crop will be bountiful and consistent – and wholesale prices are already falling.
Early in the season, it is easiest to get your hands on Kensington Pride or Bowen mangoes (the mango most Australians think of when they think of a mango). These are yellow with flushes of green and orange, a powerful mango smell, yielding flesh and lots of juice.
Sunset-coloured, firm-fleshed Calypso mangoes are also around – they are less stringy with smaller pips than Bowens, but lack that subtle tartness you’ll find in other varieties.
Head into an Asian grocer and you’ll hopefully discover long, thin Nam Dok Mai mangoes. When unripe their skin is vivid green, and their firm, less juicy flesh is ideal for salads, such as in Palisa Anderson’s showy fried snapper and green mango salad, or Meera Sodha’s Burmese mango, peanut and lime salad. They can also be cooked, as in this Keralan fish curry.
While Nam Dok Mai mangoes are the undisputed rulers of savoury, a ripe Kensington Pride is filled with juice and digestive enzymes – which makes it an excellent addition to marinades, as in this chargrilled chilli chicken recipe.
Calypsos, on the other hand, are about as close to an on-the-go snack as a mango can get. That firmness makes them ideal in this chilled dessert salad – the tartness of the lime, aromatic star anise and kick of chilli more than offsets their simple, sweet flavour. Plus dicing a Calypso is less messy than with other varieties.
That firmer texture also makes them a solid centre for a mango friand. Just don’t eat it right out of the oven – much like tomato, mango is very good at holding in warmth and will scorch your mouth if you can’t be patient.
If you’re planning to puree your mango, at this time of year it’s best to opt for a juicy Kensington Pride – their softer flesh makes them work well in smoothie bowls and in cocktails, like this somewhat lethal vodka and mango bellini.
As for Nam Dok Mai mangoes, when they ripen, they turn a vivid yellow, with flesh so sweet, sugar crystals often form on the skin. That sugar hit makes them the right choice for classic Thai desserts such as salty-sweet mango sticky rice.
Or, to take advantage of different mangoes’ properties, try Kim Joy’s mango and coconut tart, using Kensington Prides for the puree and Calypsos for the cut-up pieces.
As the season progresses, use Honey Golds (available from November) as a substitute for Mexican Ataúlfos in this high-drama meringue cake. And be on the lookout from December for three new mango varieties – the fruits of a national mango breeding program – which will be more widely available this season, after trials last year.
Unlike avocados, Australian Mangoes recommend giving their produce a gentle squeeze to gauge ripeness – when it’s ready, no matter the variety, the flesh should give a little. This is a better test than skin colour, because a perfectly ripe mango may still look a little green. A strong, sweet smell is also a good indicator.
Finally, a note on peeling. While a “hedge-hogged” mango is the classic Australian way to eat one – and works particularly well with firm-fleshed Calypsos – for juicier mangoes, I prefer to use the YouTube Method (search “mango hack” and you’ll see why I call it that), especially when cooking.
Slice the mango vertically, close to the pit, then press the flesh on to the top of a water glass (the thinner the glass, the better); using the side of the glass, slowly slide the mango down to cleave the cheek from its skin.
It’s not exactly no-mess, but then, with mango nothing is.