Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Mangoes are the succulent, aromatic fruits of an Asian tree, Mangifera indica, a distant relative of the pistachio and cashew trees, that has been cultivated for many thousands of years. There are hundreds of varieties with very different qualities, including flavor and degrees of fibrousness and astringency. The mango skin contains an irritant and allergenic phenolic compound similar to that in the cashew. Their deep orange color comes from carotenoid pigments, mainly beta-carotene. Mangoes are climacteric fruits that accumulate starch, so they can be picked green and will sweeten and soften as they ripen, from the seed outwards. Their flavor is especially complex, and may be dominated by the compounds that characterize peaches and coconuts (lactones), generically fruity esters, medicinal or even turpentiny terpenes, and caramel notes. Green mangoes are very tart, and are made into pickles as well as dried and ground to make an acidifying powder (Hindi amchur). Mango pickles were so admired in 18th-century England that the fruit lent its name to the preparation and to other suitable materials: hence “mango peppers.”