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IN SEASON

This Mango Moment

July 05, 1996|RUSS PARSONS

The fruit market isn't exactly awash in great buys this summer after small harvests of cherries, apricots, peaches and plums, but there is one standout value: mangoes.

This summer has seen a record run of the fruit--thanks to a drought in parts of Mexico that kicked harvests off early--and mangoes are selling at wholesale for less than 25 cents a pound. Peaches, for example, are more than twice that.

Even better, we're heading into the meat of the mango season, with picking soon to start on the Kent variety. These aren't the best mangoes to look at--their skin can be green even when ripe, and they lack the florid red flush of, say, the Tommy Atkins variety. But some connoisseurs say they're the best major mango variety.

"These are the best eating of all the mangoes," says Tony Mandel, an account representative for Farmer's Pride, a mango grower-shipper-packer in Nogales. "Unfortunately, some people equate red color with superior eating quality, but it's not always that way."

Tommy Atkins--most of the mangoes now in the market--have good flavor, but the flesh tends to be a little more fibrous than that of other varieties, giving it a stringy texture. The other two major varieties in the United States (more than 100 mango varieties are grown around the world) are Haden and Keitt.

Almost all of the mangoes sold in this country are imported, and more than 80% of the imports are from Mexico. Right now most are coming from Nayarit and Sinaloa.

Partly because of the season's early start, imports of Mexican mangoes are up more than 25% over last year. Other countries are getting in on the action. Guatemalan mango shipments are up more than 60% over last year, and Ecuador, Costa Rica and Peru have all increased their profiles.

To get a good mango, judge by touch. A really ripe fruit will be supple. Some mangoes, though, ripen from the seed out, so appearances can be a little deceiving. Just because a mango is firm to the touch doesn't mean it won't be ripe soon.

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