BY NORIS LEDESMA
FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDEN
As published in the Miami Herald
With mango season here, we are all thinking about that age-old question: how to deal with all those glorious, delicious—and ripe—mangos. There is the only one mainland area of the United States where this delicious and fragrant fruit can be properly grown. For years mangos have been of great value in South Florida, grown with pride in the garden - a fruit to eat when ripe and at all stages of growth. Fresh mangos are a privilege Floridians have. Nothing compares the delicacy of a fresh mango harvested directly from the tree.
Mangos can also be an important part of healthy eating. Work fruits into the daily routine, aiming for the goal of at least five servings a day. Be sure to serve fruit at every meal. Since this is mango season, if you have mango trees in your yard, use them or buy your mangos from local Farmers’ Markets, it is a great way to get fresh, tasty produce and support our local farmers.
If you own a mango, tree keep in mind that among mangos there is a wide variety of color, shape, flavor, texture, aroma and uses. Many of the mango varieties are best just as they come off the tree, fresh and succulent – the perfect summer snack. Others are at their best in combinations with the exciting flavors of South Florida, spawning a taste experience found no where else in the world.
Because mangos come in a rainbow of reds, yellows, oranges, and greens, color is not the best way to determine ripeness. Determining the proper ripeness of the fruit is best done with your hands or with your nose, with a gentle give and fruity aroma hinting at the heaven that waits inside. As for ripening, it is Mother Nature that knows best, providing a warm room temperature for the perfect conversion of starch to sugar.
A delightful way to serve a mango is the exquisite Indian mango ‘Dusehri,’ served whole with the skin peeled back. It can be placed in a cup or just simply held in the hand like a lollipop; kids will love it.
Children, especially younger ones, will eat what’s available at home. That’s why it’s important to control the supply lines — the foods that you serve for meals and have on hand for snacks. Make it easy for your child to choose healthy snacks by keeping fruits ready to eat. Encourage healthy choices by eating well yourself. Kids will follow the lead of the adults they see every day.
One of the advantages of preserving mangos is to have them available for consumption over a longer period of time. By freezing mangos, one is able to utilize all of the fruit in a single season.
- Select quality fruit: Select firm, ripe fruit. Carefully wash and peel the fruit.
- Cut the fruit into lengthwise slices.
- Poor the pulp in plastic bags.
Freezing mangos is accomplished by storing fruit at temperatures bellow 32F. This limits the enzymatic breakdown of the fruit. Mangos can be frozen without any special treatment except washing, while some fruits need to be peeled or seeded. Frozen mango pulp looks and tastes very similar to fresh fruit. The pulp can be used in smoothies, jellies, chutney, bread, ice cream and more. After a year It may change the color, but the flavor still good, and perfect to make mango chutney.
Select ripe mangos that are firm. Peel the fruit, and cut
off the two sides. Cut the pieces of pulp into lengthwise slices ¼ to ½ inch
thick. Arrange the slices flat on the dehydrating trays. Place the trays in the
dehydrator. Set the temperature control from 125° to 135°F,
and let it run until the slices reach the desired consistency. Slices that are
too soft or moist do not store well. Drying time depends upon the thickness of
the slices, the amount of fruit in the dehydrator and the humidity. In <st1:place w:st="on">South Florida, drying times of 8 to 10 hours are typical.
However, check a few hours earlier because it can burn the fruit. Proper dried
slices have a beautiful golden-yellow color.
Preservation of Mango Fruit by Drying
(dehydration) is an excellent way to preserve surplus mango fruit. In the form
of dried slices or fruit leather, the mango makes a delicious, sweet,
all-natural snack. In regions where there is little rain and low atmospheric
humidity, the fruit can be dried in the sun. The climate in South
Florida, however, is too rainy and humid during the mango season
for sun-drying to be practical. Electric dehydrators are the most convenient
method for drying mangos here.
good dehydrators are available. Those made by Excalibur have rectangular trays
and the largest capacity. In this machine, the air flows across the trays, not
through them. This keeps the flavors of different fruit or vegetables from
mixing. Other good machines are made by Waring and American Harvest. These have
circular trays. The best machines have an electric heating element with an
adjustable temperature control, a fan which assures uniform temperature
distribution in the drying chamber, and adequate vents to facilitate air
circulation. Teflon mesh trays are superior to metal or other kinds of plastic
because the dried fruit slices do not stick to them. The oven of a household
cooking stove (electric or gas) can be used for drying fruit also, provided
that the temperature can be set low enough to prevent darkening of the fruit. A
convection oven works more like an electric dehydrator because a fan circulates
the air and hastens drying.
drying slices, select ripe fruit that yields to the pressure of the fingers on
the surface, but is still relatively firm. Avoid fruit which are too soft and
mushy because they are difficult to slice and will result in slices that are
dark in color. Peel the fruit with a sharp knife and cut out any defective
parts. Cut off the two sides or “cheeks” of the pulp, and then the two
remaining narrow pieces from the edges of the seed. Discard the peels and seeds
with the compost.
the pieces of pulp into lengthwise slices of ¼ to d
inch thickness. Arrange the slices flat on the drying trays. For home use it is
not necessary to use any additives on the slices. Place the trays in the
dehydrator. Set the temperature control to 125 to 135EF, turn on the dehydrator,
and let it run continuously until the slices reach the desired consistency.
Most people prefer slices with a leathery, but not hard or brittle consistency.
Slices that are too soft and moist do not store well. If freshly dried slices
are too brittle, place them in an open container and let them stand at room
temperature and humidity until the slices are the right consistency. Drying
time depends upon the thickness of the slices, the amount of fruit in the
dehydrator, and the atmospheric humidity. In South Florida,
drying times of 8 to 10 hr usually are satisfactory. However, slices should be
checked a few hours prior to the expected completion time, as drying too long
wastes electricity and can burn the fruit. Proper dried slices have a beautiful
golden-yellow color. Slices dried too long often will have a brown color, which
most people consider undesirable.
mango leather, select fully ripe fruit. The pulp should be soft enough to make
into a puree easily. Peel the fruit and cut the pulp from the seed. Place the
pulp in a blender or colander and make it into a smooth puree. No additives are
needed. Place sheets of thin plastic (Saran wrap) on the dehydrator trays or on
cookie sheets for drying in the oven. Spread the puree on the sheets in a layer
about ¼ inch thick. Place the trays in the dehydrator with the temperature
control set to 125 to 130EF. Turn on the dehydrator and let it run until the leather
has reached a firm, elastic, sticky consistency. The time required should be 8
to 10 hours. The leather is considered finished when the dried pulp can be
easily peeled from the plastic. Dried mango leather usually develops a darker
color than dried slices (light to dark brown). Remove leather from the trays
and roll it up in the plastic sheets. Leather rolls which are not covered will
mango slices or leather should be placed in closed bags soon after drying. If
they are left in a humid atmosphere without protection they will take up
moisture and soften considerably. The bags of dried slices or leather should
not be stored at room temperature for more than a few days in hot weather, as they
will ferment or develop mold on their surface and become inedible. Dried mango
products can be kept in a refrigerator successfully for at least two years, or
in a freezer for at least three years.
Don't waste your mangos, you can enjoy them all year around!
Noris Ledesma is curator of tropical fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.