Sweet, succulent mangoes lighten winter's dark days with bright tropical flavor.

Sweet, succulent mangoes lighten winter's dark days with bright tropical flavor.

With smooth buttery flesh and a flavor that evokes pineapple, peach and vanilla all at once, it's no wonder that mangoes are one of the most-consumed fruits in the world. They originated in India more than 4,000 years ago and Buddhist monks reportedly brought mangoes from India to eastern Asia in the 5th century B.C. Persians took them to Africa in the 10th century A.D. Portuguese traders took mangoes to Brazil and slave traders brought them to the Caribbean. Today, mangoes grow in tropical and subtropical climates around the globe, lending their flavor to dishes as varied as sweet Chinese Mango Pudding or spicy Thai Chicken & Mango Stir-Fry.

?Mangoes pair beautifully with lentils in a classic Indian Mango Dal and add a sweet freshness to Peruvian Scallop Mango Ceviche. Although there are more than 1,000 varieties, here in the U.S. you will likely only find six. Luckily any of them will work in these recipes, and they're all loaded with antioxidants, such as vitamins A and C, plus potassium and fiber. Mangoes commonly found in supermarkets are usually not labeled. But in the winter months you may find buttery-textured Ataulfos, Hadens, which are green to yellow with red bursts, the slightly sweet Tommy Atkins and Kents, which are green with dark red overtones and small yellow dots. So arm yourself with these recipes and prepare to explore the sweet, wide world of mangoes.

To peel and cut a mango:

Slice both ends off the mango, revealing the long, slender seed inside. Set the fruit upright on a work surface and remove the skin with a sharp knife. With the seed perpendicular to you, slice the fruit from both sides of the seed, yielding two large pieces. Turn the seed parallel to you and slice the two smaller pieces of fruit from each side. Cut the fruit into the desired shape.

January/February 2010