Friday, 4 April 2014

My Mango Obsession

The mango season in Ghana, is one that feels me with nostalgia and excitement. The local grocery markets are filled with freshly, plucked, sun ripened mangoes and the hawkers, screaming for your attention to purchase their wares.

The process of touching each mango, checking for their freshness, juiciness and smell, before they qualify for your basket increases your appetite for these mangoes. 

The most frustrating and rewarding way of eating Mangoes, is one you hunt yourself. Typically most Ghanaians do own Mango trees at home,and that in itself is where the problem of obsession stems from. 

The ripened Mangoes always seemed to be at the top of the tree. One had to create different  ways of getting to the Mango, as the 'first come first serve rule operates' during the Mango season. 

I found it interesting, how some people 'short gun' the Mangoes, just because they saw it first, however did not have the process to get to it. 

Enjoying my Alphonso Mango!

This is where my obsession for Mangoes started.  During my childhood we had two different varieties of Mango trees. 
The variety we had was the Nam-doc-mai (which we called Salo mango), which is large with an oval shape, dark to medium green in colour. The skin stays green even when ripe, you'll have to squeeze it gently to check for it's ripeness. The only frustration with this tree is,  it bore limited fruit, was difficult to maintain and Mum monopolised the tree. The best part was when they were ready to be eaten, mum fridges them and after dinner, she gives me a share of the mango. 

Using my teeth to bite the tip off, I squeezed the mango gently but firmly, to get to the juice . The first taste of a perfectly ripened chilled Mango is just amazing and if you still have a few more Mangoes left to devour, you eat them quickly, regardless of the juice dripping on your hand (which one quickly licks off skilfully)

The taste of Nam-doc-mai is creamy, firm with less fibres and extremely delicious. The tree is generally short and the fruits are always within an arms reach to pluck. 

My cousin, Francisca got me this gorgeous Mango from Ghana. 
A perfect rounded shaped 'bad girl'.

The second tree was the Alphonso variety. This 'bad girl' bore many fruits that got me in trouble over the years. These sun kissed , juicy, fibrous mango will stare at you from the top of the tree. One had to be creative with ways on getting to the ripened mango.  The most common approach was using   stones, a long stick, climbing the tree or patiently waiting for the Mango to fall off the tree. 

Perfectly ripened Alphonso mango

 The easiest way is to wake up at dawn and visit the Mango tree. You are guaranteed easy picking during the peak of the Mango season. However if you miss that opportunity, then you need to use different options. 

Enjoying my Mango at lunch at Bushey Park

If on the other hand you just have one Mango to eat, then you take your time, to savour all the juices, take the seed out, skilfully separating the juice from the fibres and finally finishing both the juice and skin. 

I wanted my Mangoes to be perfect, hence ~I always climbed the Mango tree, to my Mum's displeasure, pick the mangoes, scrape my leg against the tree (I have scars on my leg due to my Mango obsession), however enjoyed every bit of my hard work. 

My box of sun ripened Alphonso Mangoes from my local grocer in Hampton Hill

I've always bought Mangoes from the supermarket, which most times are disappointing . However the best are from Waitrose and Marks & Spencer , who stock the sun ripened juicy Mangoes. 
I've tried the honey sweet and juicy taste of 'Pakistan Mangoes', they are amazing. 

My obsession for Mangoes has no boundaries. Finding out my local grocers, next to my office stocks the best Venezuelan, almost perfumery Alphonso Mangoes, was and still is the best news ever. They reserve a box of handpicked Mangoes each week for me till the season ends. 

I prefer to have my Mangoes in their natural form, in my African way with the juices running down my hands, preferably under a Mango tree. I know I can't push the 'Under the Mango tree' bit, so I always include Mangoes when I organise a picnic or visit the park.

When I uploaded my picture on Instagram about my obsession for Mangoes, I noticed a lot of people shared my obsession. Below is a comment from a fellow Mango obsessor. 

  Miss Hassan writes:

'My favourite fruit is Mango. My family and friends know how crazy I am about the fruit. I would not be able to pass by a shop that sells fruits without having to buy mangoes. One time I went to a fruit market , bought a box full of mangoes and I finished them in three days (there were probably 23+ of Mangoes in the box). I get cravings of it and haven't eaten it in a while and this could also include cravings of just the mango skin. I love Mangoes."