Cooking with Wild Mangos

Cooking Wild, Mango Style

By Noris Ledesma 

There is a wide diversity of mango (Mangifera) species that bear edible fruit. Among these wild mangos may lay the genes for new flavors and uses. We may find in these wild relatives the perfect genetic combination for use at the mature-green stage; mangos for full-flavored chutneys and pickles and even for fresh fruit.

Street markets of Borneo, Malaysia, and Indonesia sporadically display wild mangos for sale, just as they have for hundreds of years, but their consumption lies predominantly with elderly locals. They are mainly used as vegetables, consumed in salads, pickles and chutneys. The versatility of this fruits provides the consumer, with a full range of flavors and uses.

Kuini (Mangifera odorata)

The Kuini (Mangifera odorata) is a unique denizen of these markets and the surrounding countryside.  Its leaves emit a characteristic fragrant smell of fresh resin. Even the flowers of this tree are strongly scented with the same fragrance.  This fruit is commonly cultivated in Borneo, Bali and Java.  It is also found in Thailand, Vietnam, and in South Florida. It has a juicy and sweet fruit when ripe, turning to a yellowish green when full ripe. Ripe fruit have a strong scent of mango, so strong in fact this characteristic alone can be used to determine maturity. It is best eaten on the firm side and is excellent in smoothies. When preparing it is best to score the fruit lengthwise and peel it open, as the skin can have a strong flavor that may be objectionable to some. The fruit have excellent tolerance (perhaps even resistance) to anthracnose will bear fruit in wet climates where the common mango rarely reached maturity.

Trees have a nice conical crown making it perfect as an ornamental. Leaves are considerably larger than the common mango and the new growth is a deep maroon. These towering giants grow widely spaced within forests, and provide one of the most spectacular shows in the forest canopy when in full bloom.

Wild mangos, rare and endangered due to habitat loss, form part of the tropical rain forest canopy of Southeast Asia. Few of these forest giants remain in their native habitat and if we cannot bring about horticultural acceptance of these fruit, we may lose this important resource.

Kuini Mango Salad

2 large green mangos (unripe), peeled and cubed *

½ large sweet onion, sliced lengthwise

1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix ingredients and serve with corn ships 

*Kuini should be peeled thickly because of the presence of an acrid latex in the skin, which can also be reduced by steeping in diluted lime-water before eating.