A few days ago, Sarah Hood put out feelers on Twitter to see if anyone would be interested in a mango tasting. After the lovely apple tasting I participated in a few months back, I immediately jumped on board. Besides, you offer mango to this island girl, you'll hear nothing but yes. The sweet, creamy perfumed meat of that fruit is irresistible to me and fills me with nostalgia for home. The three mangoes we tasted today, however, were all from Mexico: Tommy Atkins, Haden and Ataulfo.
The Tommy Atkins was the largest of the three varieties, with a red and gold skin. It's possible this one was a bit overripe though, as the flesh was starting to get stringy. It was a beautiful sunny orange colour and was definitely the sweetest and most perfumed mango we tasted. It had an earthy note that I'd attribute to it's state of ripeness.
On the other end of the spectrum, the red and green Haden had the mildest flavour of the three. The sample we had may have needed another day or two of ripening, as the flesh was still very firm. The taste was lightly sweet with just a hint of acidity. Finally, we had the Ataulfo, an almost pear shaped variety with a soft yellow skin. While it had the soft, creamy texture and high juice of perfect ripeness, it was, oddly, the most acidic of all the samples.
After trying the mangoes on their own, Sarah put together one of the suggested recipes from the Mango Growers of Mexico press kit that came with the fruit; a mango caprese salad, adapted from the one at The National Mango Board. The addition of the herbs and spices elevated and altered the taste of each mango in very interesting ways. The Haden actually got kind of lost in the other flavours of the salad. It just was too mild to hold it's own or have any real impact. The universally least successful mango in the salad was the Tommy Atkins. The earthiness hinted at in the raw mango was elevated to unpleasant by the salt. The Ataulfo was by far the favourite mango to use in this recipe. The salt brought up it's lovely sweetness, which blended beautifully with the basil and spices.
Here's the recipe that was used for the caprese salad. It would be a fantastic summer side dish, especially alongside other latin flavours.
Mango Caprese Salad
- 3 large, ripe Mexican mangoes, peeled, pitted and sliced
- 8 oz fresh Buffalo mozzarella, sliced
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp each sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
- ¼ c fresh basil, cut into thin strips
Place sliced mango on a platter, alternating with slices of mozzarella. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with basil and serve with baguette slices.
Makes 6 servings
After the tasting, since we were so close to Little India, we took a quick mini-tour of the neighbourhood with Sarah as our guide. She picked up an Alfonso mango, which we took back to the house and tasted, just out of curiousity. Sorry, Mexico, but India's got you beat. This smaller variety has a golden yellow skin and a bright orange pulp. Similar to the Trinidadian Julie mango, the flesh is highly perfumed and intensely, though not offensively, sweet with a custard creamy texture. Some tasters noted a hint of coconut in the flavour. Check out Sarah's thoughts on the afternoon.
Apparently you can get Julies in late June/July in Kensington Market in Toronto. Yet another reason for me to count down the days to mid-summer. The shopkeep I talked to in Little India told me that's also when they get in the pink fleshed guavas. Can. Not. Wait.