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.

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.

The Mango Peel. To Eat or Not Eat?

Can one eat the peel of a mango?  That is the question.  Here are the answers:


“No way!”

“Of course you can…”

“Ugh.  The peel tastes awful!”

“I always do!”

“Sure.  No problem.”

“Not unless I want my lips to explode.”

Ahhh.  Like so many things in life, it depends!  The considerations are allergy and taste.

  1. First, allergy.

Here is what Jennifer Shultz Nelson, Unit Educator of Horticulture at the University of Illinois Extension, has to say about this issue:

“Unfortunately, mangoes have some not-so-nice relatives in the plant world. Mangoes are in the family Anacardiaceae, the same family as Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac, and Poison Oak. Like its nasty relatives, mangoes produce the oil urushiol, a mixture of several chemicals that produces a characteristic skin rash in sensitive individuals.

Fortunately, only the mango tree’s sap and the fruit’s skin contains the urushiol, and it is produced in small quantities. Some sources say the fruit’s flesh contains very low levels of urushiol. If a person is sensitive to urushiol, they may potentially have a reaction after touching the mango’s skin, particularly if there is sap present.

Most people can manage sensitivity to the urushiol in mango skin by carefully removing all traces of the skin without contaminating the flesh with the same knife. Preferably they have someone else do this so they do not touch the skin themselves! If their reaction is extreme, some individuals may need to avoid eating mangoes.”

Essentially, one has to determine their own sensitivity to the peel of a mango and proceed accordingly.

2.  Second, taste.

A lot of people eat the peel; a lot of people don’t.  It’s personal preference.

Kents and More Kents

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Mango Varieties in US Markets

Kents are great mangoes.  They have almost totally smooth flesh, are very tasty, and are highly recommended IF you know how to eat ’em ripe.  To that point, let’s make sure we know what “ripe” means.

First, let’s see what a line-up of Kent mangoes looks like. Below we’ve got 8 Kents lined up from the most unripe (Kent 1) on the left to perfectly ripe on the right (Kent 8).

Next, let’s take THE SAME eight Kents and flip them over for a different view and perspective on color.

Some quick observations.

  • Kent 3 looks riper than Kent 4, doesn’t it? It’s got more red. BUT, to the touch, Kent 4 was a fair degree softer, and thus, closer to ripeness.
  • Kent 7 looks ripe, just like Kent 8, doesn’t it?  It’s very similar in color to Kent 8.  But, alas, cutting Kent 7 open would only disappoint you.
  • Kent 8 is the *only* mango that is ripe.  Views 1 -3 below tell the story especially well. See the wrinkles all over Kent 8?  It’s ready to eat!
  • Kent 7 is *just beginning* to get a wrinkle or two; it looks ready, but isn’t.  Another couple of days, or maybe even one day depending on the environment, would make all the difference for Kent 7.
  • Unfortunately, the web has its limits and can’t deliver a sense of touch.  So let me just say this.  Kent 8 felt *suspiciously* soft.  Using other fruits as a benchmark, Kent 8 would *almost* feel spoiled…or too ripe.  Kents in particular are soft among mango varieties, but ripe mangoes are soft in general, maybe something akin to ripe apricots.
  • So don’t let softness throw you off, especially with Kents.
  • Chances are, a fairly soft Kent with a good amount of wrinkling is a good bet for the real deal mango experience.

Bottom Line:

  • Flavor: Sweet and rich for sure
  • Texture: Juicy, tender flesh with very limited fibers
  • Color: Dark green and often has a dark red blush over a small portion of the mango
  • Shape: Large oval shape
  • Ripening Cues:  Kents have yellow undertones or dots that cover more of the mango as it ripens. Squeeze gently to judge ripeness and look for wrinkles
  • Peak Availability: January through March, June through August
  • Primary Source Countries: Mexico, Ecuador, Peru

Late Winter / Early Spring Means Only One Thing. The Kents are coming! The Kents are coming!

If you don’t already know how I feel about Kent mangoes, check it out here. That out of the way, keep reading!! If you happen to be perusing this post in February or March, then GREAT because I’m here to tell you to keep your eyes open at the market because Kents are starting to show up and naturally Whole Foods is on top of the mango opportunity.

And not that this post is about organics, BUT one thing I like about Whole Foods is for some reason, they do the best job of stocking organic mangoes of any market.  Once in a blue moon, I’ll see them at Trader Joe’s, but Whole Foods, bless its exorbitantly expensive heart, often stocks organic mangoes.  And sometimes, I’ll even see Organic Fair Trade mangoes there.  Most recently, I saw a beautiful batch of Organic Fair Trade Kents at Whole Foods and was really pleased with the quality.  Another time I found some Fair Trade Haitian mangoes, which thrilled me so much, I wrote a whole post about it.

Check out this label, which I HIGHLY APPROVE of.  I just peeled this off the beautiful Kent I bought.  We’ve got the country of origin, Peru.  And the variety, Kent.  And it’s organic.  And it’s Fair Trade, which deserves an entire post of its own as it applies to mangoes.  Another day, another day…

Anyway, late winter, early spring is when the mango run here in the non-tropical states of the USA begins.  Start your engines, folks. We have mango liftoff!


How to Cut a Mango (i.e. How to Remove the Blasted Clingy Seed)

Before I was a maven, I confess I was tentative on buying a lot of mangoes because they are clingstone fruits. As one might surmise, “clingstones” have stones which cannot be easily removed from the flesh. Said another way: The flesh is attached strongly to the blasted stone/seed/pit and must be cut away from the blasted stone/seed/pit. Said yet another way: This takes more time/effort in the kitchen than I have the patience for.

Then wha-la! The gates of Heaven opened and I found the tool that changed my mango life forever:  A mango pitter!!!!   You simply must, must, must have one. (I’ve seen hoity-toity culinary types post videos on how to cut a mango with just a knife. It’s all horse-pucky and I’ll tell you why in a minute)

To start, cut the ends off of the mango.  This step is essential for perfectly ripe mangoes, which tend to be on the softer side. (Trying to slice through tough skin will sometimes demand a degree of pressure which can begin to crush a really ripe mango. Having a little flesh showing eases the process.)

Cut End of the Mango for an Easy Start

Press down firmly!



Look how lovely!


First slice in one direction…

And then slice in the opposite direction…


Flip it inside out and …..beautiful!

When you’re all done!

When you’re all done slicing off the cubes, this skin look like this…

About the hoity-toities and mangoes…

The mango pitter is shaped exactly like the seed, and cuts as close AROUND the seed as possible. Has anyone ever seen a knife with a rounded blade? Nope. So you’re either throwing away good fruit that’s still on the seed OR spending time trimming the flesh off the seed. 🙁

A mango pitter, on the other hand, leaves a little flesh on the seed, (enough for significant others to slurp on) but is, in most cases, extremely efficient. There is one exception: Manila mangoes. Manila mangoes have smaller seeds than other varieties of mangoes, so the pitter leaves a good deal more flesh on the seed. So in this instance, I still use the pitter, but take a few seconds to slice more flesh off of the seed – with a knife just like the hoity-toities. The superb taste of the Manila mango is more than worth the trouble. The other exception to efficiency I’ve seen with this pitter is that seeds from really largeTommy Atkins mangoes are a hair too big and the pitter gets stuck mid-cut. In reality, you shouldn’t be buying Tommy Atkins mangoes ANYWAY, so in my mind, the pitter is still a 10/10.

Now for the extra tip that makes it all worthwhile. What to do with the mango skins and your morning coffee grinds? There has never been so easy an answer. Check out the kitchen workhorse of a compost bin a few pics below. My husband is an engineer and by definition, frugal. There are not many purchases that he gloats over, but this is one of them. It’s big enough to last for a couple of day’s worth of refuse, has a charcoal filter (think ODOR FREE), and cleans up beautifully.

Stainless 1 Gallon Compost Bin

I’ve had mine for a couple of years now and use it daily. I like my counters clear of “things” for easier wiping, so I stow mine under the sink.

Mangoes and banana peels headed for a new life…



Shazam! Neat, tidy, and a friend to the environment!


I bought both my mango pitter and compost bin at Williams-Sonoma. Other retailers carry mango pitters, but not THIS beautiful mango-colored mango pitter – it’s exclusive to Williams-Sonoma. For instance, some retailers carry a white version, but I confess (yet again) I have a strong preference for the hoity-toity mango-colored Williams-Sonoma version.  Okay, so it’s true…I may appreciate hoity-toity things and persons more than I initially let on.  Happy mango slicing!


Holy Haitian Mango, Batman!

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Mango Varieties in US Markets

Look what I found!!  I tell you folks, these babies from Haiti were monstrous!  And not only that, the whole lot of them were beautiful, clean and undamaged. What a TREAT!

In an earlier post, I covered the Ataulfo mango, and I’ll give it to you – the Haitian mango looks an awful lot like an Ataulfo. But it isn’t.

The Haitian mango (also known as the Francine mango or the Madame Francis mango) is – as you can see- a fair degree heftier than its friend, the Ataulfo mango. They do share that wonderful, buttery smooth flesh with the Ataulfos, though, and that is why I’m a huge fan!!!!

The Haitian mangoes have just a six-to-eight week season, so you have to watch carefully for them in late spring. The mangoes I purchased were part of Whole Foods’ Fair Trade program. In the case of Haiti, Whole Foods is the sole buyer of Certified Organic mangoes from small Haitian growers – sometimes buying from individuals or families with just a single tree!

I’m guessing the Haitians were really thrilled to get some solid export dollars for their mangoes – and I for one was happy to do my part as a consumer.

Hurray for Haitian mangoes!

Oh, and one more thing – when I brought my Haitian mangoes home, they were still greenish – yellow. I let them ripen in my pantry until they were bright yellow with little wrinkles.  Bottom line, never be afraid to bring home a green mango!

Series Navigation

Kents and More KentsHaden Mangoes Revisited

Haden Mangoes Revisited

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

Dear Fellow Mango lovers: Every once in awhile I have to revise an earlier opinion – and this is one of those times. In my earlier post on Haden mangoes, I described them as a 3rd runner up to Kent and Manila mangoes. While I still do favor Kents and Ataulfos, I recently had some Hadens that were TRULY superb – and most importantly – they contained almost no fibrous flesh. That Hadens typically contain some amount of fibrous flesh was the main reason that I had been previously been luke-warm on them.


The Hadens that altered my opinion were organic; maybe this had something to do with the high quality of the mango eating experience:  the flesh was incredibly juicy and flavorful…and abundant.  That’s one thing the Hadens (like Kents) offer is a lot of yummy flesh – especially compared to the smaller Manilas.    The wee bit of fiber that *was there* was not a distraction to an amazing real deal mango eating extravaganza.

My new bottom line:  if you can find a nice batch of organic Haden mangoes, you will likely be very pleased with the quality if you eat them at their prime.  Note the ripe specimen above.  It has a blushy-pinky-peachy color on much of the surface – and it has little wrinkles, which means it’s prime for eating.

Series Navigation

Holy Haitian Mango, Batman!