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.

Costco Guy Needs Mango Education!

Oh boy….  Them’s were fightin’ words!

Lemme tell y’all ’bout that sad, shameful day…

I was just leaving Costco – minding my own mango business.  As it was, I had two tubs of FAGE Greek yogurt and a case of Kent mangoes in my cart (plus a few other things.)  The Costco guy was standing there checking my receipt against the contents of my basket (like someone always does at Costco) and bam!  He hit me!  Okay, so perhaps not literally, but it was a blow nevertheless!

The guy looks at my tubs of FAGE yogurt *which were right next to the blasted mangoes* and says that I need to get some fruit with that yogurt.  Say what????  I immediately pointed out and defended my innocent, beautiful fruit.  “Mangoes, I’ve got mangoes!” I said.  He looked at me trying to be friendly (but not succeeding, not even one bit) and said he meant something “sweet.”  I’m sorry, but what kind of dumb*ss comment was that?

My feeling is, if you don’t know about mangoes, then don’t go around talking dirty about them.  It’s like Momma always said…if ya can’t say ‘nothin nice…It’s a good thing I really love Costco or…..I just mighta had ta pick a fight!

Seriously, though.  This *IS * the problem.  A lot of people just don’t know about mangoes.

Blog, on.  Blog on…

Don’t Blame EITHER on the Cats

This post is dedicated to any mango friend who has ever had their treats stolen.  Treats stolen?   Yeah.  Treats stolen.  You know, the treats that you stash somewhere in the depths of a kitchen cabinet.  The kind of treats that are just for *you*.  The kind of treats that you look forward to munching on after a Holy-Mother-Train-Wreck-of-a-Day.  I had such a stash.  I did.  And now it’s gone.  “Maybe the cats ate the treats?”  Please.

Mango friends, if this has ever happened to you, I am here to sympathize and commiserate.

And to add mango insult to mango injury, get this:  The perpetrator, after violating the household treaty on treats by consuming the treats, grinned ever so happily…no, proudly…and announced that everyone should stay out of a certain area of the house because the consumption of such volume of said treats caused a certain kind of “problem.”  Yeah.  You know the kind of problem I’m talking about.  Innocent household pets have been taking heat for this kind of “problem” for all eternity.

So no, dear Perpetrator, the cats didn’t eat the treats, nor did the cats have any sort of  “problem.”   I’m thinking I’ll sleep with them.

Small Mango Mania. Are They Worth the Discount?

In preparation to make another one of Ruth Beranbaum’s amazing mango tarts, I ventured out to the store to pick up some mangoes and other ingredients and stumbled upon a bin of ripe, small ataulfos. When I say small, what I mean is that the whole bin full of atualfos were runt-like ataulfos – perhaps about 4 inches long on the generous side. (ataulfos are small to begin with, these were VERY small – about 2/3 the normal size) The price was appealing – 3 for $1.00. Sold. I bought a whole mess of them thinking I’ll have plenty of leftover mangoes to enjoy even after the tart is long gone.

Boy was that misguided.

Small Mango Mania. Are They Worth the Discount?


Here’s what happened. I let them sit for a day and then broke into them when it was time. After I had cut through a few, I started to think Uh-Oh. At least HALF of the mangoes were spoiled. They weren’t overripe, but the flesh had swaths of pale brown running lengthwise.

Unlike some of the spoiled mangoes I’ve seen before, such as ones suffering from Diplodia, these mangoes looked GREAT on the outside. This happens occasionally (good on the outside, bad on the inside) but NEVER have I seen it at the 50% ratio. This tells me that something goes haywire when undersized mangoes are picked when they aren’t ripe. I’m going to reach out to some mango friends for answers, but as mango consumers just know that small/undersize mangoes may be bad news. I’m going to steer away from them in the future – no matter how cute & visually appealing the little buggers are.

You heard it hear first. And to finish story – I BARELY had enough for my mango tart – a birthday offering to my hubby. Never again on the small mangoes.

Red Mango & Scarlett Mango. Really Safeway? Your Produce Marketing BS is being outed… Right Here. Right Now.

Red Mango & Scarlett Mango. Really Safeway? Your Produce Marketing BS is being outed… Right Here. Right Now.


Maybe I’m just cranky this morning OR MAYBE someone in the corporate office at Safeway needs a swift kick in the *ss and a new job, preferably one that doesn’t involve mango buying & marketing.

I went to Safeway this morning to grab some milk, cereal, & juice for breakfast and meandered into the produce aisle.  I’d seen crappy mango labeling before at Safeway and have tried to grin and bear it.  But no more.  Now I’m just ticked off because it seems they are hell bent on deceiving consumers with their mango marketing.

Here’s what happened:

I walk over to the mango display.  And as it typically goes, Safeway is stocking some of the crappiest mangoes on earth, the Tommy Atkins mangoes.  (no, I’m not exaggerating – not even a little) Tommys might, in fact, BE the crappiest mangoes on earth, but I’ll hold off on pronouncing them as such for the moment.

In the past, I’ve seen Tommy labeled at Safeway as Red Mangoes.  The “red mango” label always irked me, but today Safeway really upped the ante.   Today, the potentially crappiest mangoes on earth were labeled “Scarlett mangoes.”   ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  “Scarlett???”  That’s some serious mango Kool-aid, Safeway.

The first thing everyone should know is that there is no such thing as a “red mango.”  AND there’s no such thing as a “Scarlett mango.”  This is just the way that Safeway chooses to label & market crappy mangoes to consumers because the name sounds appealing.  I mean, really.  “Red” was enough of a violation.  Then they went to “Scarlett” ???

It gets worse – and this is how I know they are trying to put some serious BS over on the public and really the reason that I decided to write this post.

Guess what was right next to the “Scarlett mangoes”?

“Ataulfo mangoes.”    Labeled correctly.  Labeled accurately.  Ataulfo is the actual name of a variety.   AND more to the point of this post, Ataulfos are REALLY YUMMY – so OF COURSE, Safeway chooses to label the good variety correctly.   Why?  Because a fair number of people know about Ataulfos.  And the people that don’t know about Ataulfos, but are curious, may go home, check them out on the Internet, learn that they are a good variety, and buy them next time.   Either way, Safeway wins.

The “Scarlett Mangoes” and “Red Mangoes” are for folks who don’t know any better – mango newbies.  Since “Scarlett Mangoes” and “Red Mangoes” aren’t real varieties, the consumer can’t find any real information about them. (convenient eh?)  Consumers will pick them up and try them because they are pretty and have a pretty name.  But they will be sorely disappointed and may never buy another mango again.  Read exactly why here.

Until now, no one was blowing the whistle on Red Mangoes or Scarlett Mangoes.  Well consider it blown.

To recap my full and entire beef:

  1. There is no such thing as a red mango.
  2. There is no such thing as a Scarlett mango.
  3. Red Mango is a mango euphemism, where the bad label/variety that Safeway is trying to hide is TOMMY ATKINS.
  4. Scarlett Mango is a mango euphemism, where the bad label/variety that Safeway is trying to hide is TOMMY ATKINS.
  5. Safeway selectively uses the correct labeling on mangoes when it serves them well to do so.
  6. Safeway selectively uses incorrect labeling on mangoes when it serves them well to do so.

The Mango Maven bottom line:

  1. Don’t buy Red Mangoes.  They stink.  Their real name is Tommy Atkins.
  2. Don’t buy Scarlett mangoes. They stink.  Their real name is Tommy Atkins.
  3. Ask your produce person to stock ONLY AtaulfosKentsKeitts or Hadens.

Safeway, are you listening?  You’ve just been officially inducted into Mango Maven’s “Mango Hall of Shame.”   The good news?  There is a way out:  (see item 3 in my bottom line)


p.s.  Stores in Florida and Hawaii have the benefit of locally sourced mangoes, so the acceptable varieties in those locales is a far longer list than the varieties listed above in item 3.

p.s.s.  It’s also very likely true that other chains besides Safeway rely on the same tactics as I’ve described above.  Safeway takes the heat today, but some other stores may soon be joining the Mango Hall of Shame.