US Consumers and Mangoes. Boy, do we have some learning to do!

Mango Maven is sorry to report that misconceptions regarding mangoes and the American consumer are prevalent.  What’s the trouble, you say?

  • About ½ of US consumers think a good mango is red in color…this is an unfortunate misconception. It depends on the variety!
  • Almost half of US consumers use color (red, orange, yellow, green) as a measure of ripeness. In fact, color at ripeness varies by variety.
  • US consumers describe texture (soft or firm to the touch) and color as being descriptors of “premium quality” mangoes. In the opinion of Mango Maven…the answer is: a premium quality mango comes from a premium quality variety of mango.
  • But unfortunately: The vast majority of US mango purchasers are not aware of varieties of mangoes and the quality considerations of each variety. It is the aim of Mango Maven to change this!
  • Many US consumers eat a mango for the first time while on vacation. Just like Ms. Mango Maven!
  • Over half of US consumers wouldn’t buy a green mango because they believe a green mango is not ripe. Sigh… 🙁   Again, it depends on the variety!

Folks, there is no such thing as a bad mango that hails from a good variety!  And yes, there are posts on this topic.

First and Foremost…

…Is is “mangos” or “mangoes”…..???After not too much consideration, Mango Maven is going with “mangoes” because the dictionary people/authorities list “oes” as the first choice for the plural.However,  “os” is also listed leaving all sides to wonder.  Where is Dan Quayle when you need him most?  (He did kinda get the raw deal on that potato deal.  D*mn cue cards anyway!)

Whatever the case – “oes” or “os”….MangoMaven is most comfy with “MANGOES!”

Mangoes and their place on planet Earth

In case the botanist in you needs to know…

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Order: Sapindales
  • Family: Anacardiaceae flowing plants bearing fruits that are drupes and some being highly poisonous. Examples: cashew, poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, pistachio, smoke tree (native to southeastern USA), and marula (native to Africa). And btw, need a primer on pronouncing Anacardiaceae?   Go to:
  • Genus: Mangifera
  • Species: M. indica
  • Binomial Name: Mangifera indica

There.  Now you know!

“Mango” in many languages. Just because.






mangue, manguier

Galician, Portuguese

English, Spanish, German




Indonesian, Malay




Russian, Serbian, Ukranian





Where do Mangoes come from? (Heaven, right?) How did mangoes get to the USA?

The real answers to both questions make kind of a long story. And thanks to Julia Morgan’s efforts in decades past, I can tell you the story today. However, since this is a blog, here’s an abbreviated version of Julia’s original research. And if you’ve forgotten your geography, no problem. Just click below on any map for a quick visual review!

A) Mangoes are native to southern Asia, particularly eastern India, Myanmar (formerly Burma), and the Andaman Islands.

B) Mangoes have been cultivated and loved since Ancient times.

C) Buddhist monks likely took mangoes on voyages to Malaya and eastern Asia in the 4th and 5th Centuries B.C.

D) The Persians introduced mangoes to East Africa around the 10th Century.

E) Mangoes were cultivated in the East Indies before the earliest visits of the Portuguese, who introduced them to both the Brazilians and West Africans early in the 16th Century.

F) After becoming established in Brazil, mangoes were carried to the West Indies, first planted in Barbados about 1742 then later in the Dominican Republic.

G) Mangoes reached Jamaica about 1782.

H) Mangoes have been grown in Puerto Rico since about 1750.

I) Mangoes showed up in Mexico (from the Philippines and the West Indies) in the early 19th Century.

J) In 1833, Dr. Henry Perrine shipped seedling mango plants from Yucatan to Cape Sable, Florida, but the plants died after he was killed by Indians!

K) Mango seeds were imported into Miami from the West Indies by a Dr. Fletcher in 1862 or 1863. Two trees grew to large size and one was still bearing fruit in 1910 and is believed to have been the parent of the ‘No. 11’ mango which was planted for many years thereafter.

L) In the late 186o’s, mango seeds were planted south of Coconut Grove, Florida; the trees prospered until around 1909, producing the ‘Peach’ or ‘Turpentine’ variety.

M) In 1872, a seedling of ‘No. 11’ from Cuba was planted in Bradenton, Florida. In 1877 and 1879, W.P. Neeld made successful plantings on the west coast but they didn’t survive the January freeze in 1886.

N) Hawaii’s earliest record of the mango was the introduction of several small plants from Manila in 1824. Three plants were brought from Chile in 1825. In 1899, grafted trees from Indian varieties were imported. Seedlings became widely distributed over the six major islands.

O) In 1885, seeds of India’s ‘Bombay’ mango were brought from Key West, Florida to Miami, Florida and resulted in two trees which were productive for at least 25 years.

P) George B. Cellon started extensive propagation of the ‘Haden’ and in 1900 shipped the fruits to northern markets. The Haden has its own story. Briefly: The Haden is a descendant of a lone surviving tree of unknown variety hailing from India. The tree fostered many offspring in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and southeastern Florida. Captain Haden planted the unknown variety in Miami. The trees fruited after his death and his widow named the tree that bore the best fruit “Haden.”

Q) P.J. Wester conducted many experiments in budding, grafting and inarching from 1904 to 1908.

R) Shield-budding on a commercial scale was achieved by Mr. Orange Pound of Coconut Grove, Florida in 1909. Shield budding was a pioneer breakthrough which gave strong impetus to mango growing, breeding, and dissemination.

S) From the early 1900s onward, enthusiastic introduction of many mango varieties by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry and nurserymen followed; the mango grew steadily in popularity and importance!

T) The Reasoner Brothers Nursery imported many mango varieties and was largely responsible for the ultimate establishment of the mango on the West Coast.

U) A mango seed from Guatemala was planted in California around 1880: a few mango trees have borne fruit in California’s warmest locations with careful protection from low temperatures.

V) Altogether, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made 528 introductions from India, the Philippines, the West Indies and other sources from 1899 to 1937. Propagation of new varieties has been going on ever since.

W) Mango tree acreage initially expanded in Florida, but the growing population – together with increased land values and production costs – made commercial real estate developments more financially desirable. As a result, large groves of mangoes in Florida have been upended and subdivided. 🙁

X) With seeds brought from India, Ceylon, the East Indies and the Philippines, mango cultivation in Australia began among early settlers in North Queensland. In 1875, 40 varieties from India were set out in a single plantation. Over the years, commercial production and culture has extended to subtropical Western Australia.

Y) There is no record of the introduction of the mango into South Africa but a plantation was set out in Durban about 1860.

Z) Today, Florida remains the USA’s center of mango research and cultivation.

Ataulfo Mango – Tasty, Tasty, Tasty!!

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Mango Varieties in US Markets

If you live in Florida or Hawaii, this series of posts isn’t for you.  (As an aside, Hawaiians and Floridians are special, chosen citizens in the U.S. mango universe.  They get access to mango varieties the rest of us don’t.  Gloat they must…and I can’t even hold it against them.  Their access to the niftiest of mangoes is in fact gloat-worthy.)

This series of posts *is* for *everyone else* who doesn’t live in a tropical paradise climate.  We mere non-tropical mortals have a short-list of mangoes to choose from in our grocery stores.  Here is one:

Ataulfo Mango

Introducing the “ataulfo” mango.   The ataulfo mango is a slender yellow creature that easily earns a “most favored” rating, since I have an absolute preference for mangoes with buttery, smooth flesh and robust flavor!  Essentially, the ataulfo mango is a super yummy,  compact variety in a kidney-shaped form.  The skin turns from green to a deep golden yellow when fully ripe. The inside is velvety smooth and unlike other varieties, has a much thinner pit. The taste is intensely sweet and robust.  Yes, I needed to say “robust” one more time!

Buy and eat exactly when?

I prefer to buy all my mangoes in a range from not-so-ripe to ripe, so that I can cherry pick which one I want each day as they become ripe.  For the ataulfos, the peak of ripeness is when the skin turns deep yellow gets little wrinkles.  You might have to stand over the sink to eat them, as they are sooooo juicy at their peak!


Store ataulfos at room temperature until the “very sweet” stage shown on the far right of the image, then refrigerate until consumption.

Bottom Line about ataulfos:

Flavor: Sweet and oh so creamy
Texture: Smooth, firm flesh with no fibers  (no fibers is an A+ in my book)
Colors: From green (bitter) to vibrant yellow (very sweet) when ripe
Shape: Small, flattened oval shape
Ripening Cues: Skin turns to a deep golden color and small wrinkles appear when fully ripe.  Squeeze gently to judge ripeness.

And for a contrast between the Ataulfo and the next variety in the series, Haden, have a look:

3rd Runner-up…Haden

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Mango Varieties in US Markets

Haden mangoes are a tricky lot as they are hard to distinguish from the Tommy Atkins variety, discussed next in the series.  You’ll understand WHY it’s important to distinguish them when you read about the Tommys.

Anyway, Hadens are a pretty decent lot, and most feel they have good flavor.  But they have some fiber, which in my opinion, takes them out of the running for a “most favored mango” rating.   I’d take them over a Tommy Atkins any day, but easily choose a Kent, Keitt, or Manila mango first.  Because of the presence of some fiber, I think the only way one I’d enjoy a Haden is if it were in a *perfect state* of ripeness; it would have to be absolutely at its peak.  And to be fair, Hadens have an extra side benefit: they are quite fragrant!

Okay, earlier in the post I said it’s important to tell Haden mangoes from Tommy Atkins mangoes.  Below are examples of ripe Haden mangoes.  And for contrast purposes, the third image shows a basket of Hadens on the left, and a basket of Tommy Atkins on the right.  Every computer monitor is a little different, but you should be able to detect that the Hadens are a warmer red, and the Tommys are a darker, cooler red.   The ripe Hadens have more yellow as well; the ripe Tommys are dominated by cool red, with only a little yellow.



Bottom line about Hadens

Flavor: Good, with aromatic overtones
Texture: Firm flesh due to fine fibers (a step above Tommys for sure, but they lose a few points due to fibers)
Color: Bright red or pinkish with green and yellow overtones
Shape: Medium to large with an oval to round shape
Ripening Cues: Green areas of the mango turn to yellow as it ripens.

The Trouble with Tommy Atkins

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Mango Varieties in US Markets

I hate to blaspheme any mango, but every maven, must, at some juncture, blaspheme something.

Today a variety of mango called Tommy Atkins is going to take the hit.  And I’m not sorry, Tommy.  You’ll often see *them*  (the Tommys) displayed in the produce aisle as “red mangoes.”    For the uninitiated, here’s exactly what the red charlatans look like.  (Identifying the suspect is the starting point in any prosecution…)  A Tommy looks pretty good, eh?  Let me tell you, the beautiful red color is deceiving.   Here’s the rub of mango truth:



Tommy Atkins mangoes, compared to real deal mangoes, are *really bland* in taste and are *fibrous.*   And when I say fibrous, I mean *stringy little bastards.”   Tommys don’t have buttery flesh.  Tommys don’t have smooth flesh.   Do they taste awful?  No, but I give them a C- or D+.

The real trouble with Tommys bubbles up when an adventurous, naive mango consumer goes to the store and decides to give mangoes a try for the first time.  This is *the* critical mango moment.  The shopper picks up a handful of red mangoes because that’s most likely what the store has stocked.  And dammit, they are pretty to boot.  The happy shopper takes them home, gives them a try, and forever thinks that mangoes are *just okay.*

This is a sad day for mangoes the world over.  Why?  Because the shopper has been robbed of the real deal mango experience…and they’ve mentally applied what they know from other kinds produce to all mangoes.  Carrots taste like carrots.  A banana tastes like the next banana.  A mango must taste like all other mangoes.  And therefore, having tasted the Tommy Atkins, the opinion of the shopper is set for all time:  all mangoes must be “just okay.”  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth!

My advice is this:  if you are looking to eat fresh mangoes and want the real deal mango experience, don’t buy Tommy Atkins mangoes.  If you find yourself in the produce aisle and aren’t sure about the mangoes on display, ask a produce employee if the mangoes are smooth-fleshed or fibrous. If the employee doesn’t know (and usually they don’t) ask them to cut one open to see if the flesh is smooth. Before I could discern one variety of mango from another, I made this request many times and I never had to pay for the cut mango.  I’ve left lots of fibrous mangoes to someone else as a result of having one cut open for a quality test.   The secondary benefit of this approach is that it puts the produce folks on notice that fibrous mangoes are not acceptable for fresh eating purchases.

Now to be fair to Tommys, maybe they work fine in a mango food processing context, (like canned or dried mango products) but they are a lousy choice when one wants to stand over the kitchen sink and slurp the goodness of a real deal mango.

The REASON that Tommy Atkins mangoes are so prevalent as US imports is, you guessed it: margin.  They are more profitable and easy to manage.  Tommys are easy to grow.  Tommys have long shelf lives.  Tommys fair better in handling and transportation.   And unfortunately, the vast majority mangoes available in US markets are Tommy Atkins mangoes.  (Except in regions like Hawaii and Florida, which can grow their own.)

Bottom line advice for fresh mango consumers: Leave the Tommy Atkins mangoes on the shelves. When the Kents or Keitts or Manilas or Hadens come in, get them while you can!!! Eventually, produce buyers will get the message.

FOR SURE More Than You Wanted to Know!

Here’s a fun word:  Drupe.  Yep, drupe. Say it and let your fish lips go wild!  Drupe.  Drupe. And…another Drupe.  See, I told you it was a fun word.   (Fruit geeks rejoice ’cause you already knew about “drupe” and have been saying it for years.)    But did you know mangoes are drupes?  (probably)

“Drupe” in a nutshell:  (pun intended) A fruit whose outer fleshy part surrounds a shell (the pit) with a seed inside.  Easy.

Along with the almighty mango, drupes include coffee, olive, various palms, pistachio, almond, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, and plum.  Apparently, I’ve eaten a lot of drupes in my lifetime.

Now you know.  Done!

Ode to Trader Joe’s

One thing is certain.  *Somebody* at Trader Joe’s pays attention to mangoes.  They are a small format store, and I truly appreciate just how many mango products they offer.

Take a look at this awesome sample:


And these yummies are just a start.   Now.  I don’t work for Trader Joe’s or accept bribes or anything else from them.   Regardless, let me be a blogging fool and Trader Joe’s tool and tell all of you fellow mango fiends out there that they sell Apricot Mango Greek Yogurt (my favorite flavored yogurt of all time), Papaya Mango Fresh Salsa (soooo good with pork tenderloin), Mango Black Tea, and even Honey Mango Shaving Cream (yes, it smells as good as it sounds) – all under its own brand.  This is a *very impressive* mango effort.  I’ve probably missed some products too, but I think you get the idea:   Trader Joe’s is a mango-friendly kind of place.  If you have a Trader Joe’s store near your home, check them out.  Their mango products deserve your business!

On the fresh mango front, the results are admittedly mixed.  I’ve seen the dreaded Tommy Atkins mangoes (see my blog on THAT topic) but I’ve also seen delicious Kents.  Like always, I encourage you to speak to the produce folks.  Tell them you want buttery, smooth-fleshed fresh mangoes, not the stringy kind with bland flavor!