Mangos (Mangifera indica) were cultivated in India over 4,000 years ago. Known as the “fruit of the gods” or the “queen of fruits,” mangos were widely consumed throughout South Asia. Mangos eventually made their way via trade to Africa, Asia, Europe, and finally to the Americas. The first mangos were introduced and successfully cultivated in Florida in the early to mid-1800s. The Haden mango was the first commercially grown crop in Florida.
A member of the Anacardiaceae family, the mango tree is a relative of poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac—which means the plant produces urushiol, a chemical that causes an itchy rash. Luckily, mangos only produce small quantities of the chemical, so even those who are sensitive to urushiol can usually consume the fruit’s flesh.
Eaten both ripe and unripe, mangos are also dried and powdered to be sold as amchur, an Indian spice.
References: University of Illinois Extension, University of Florida/IFAS Extension.
TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
While the exact number of mango varieties is uncertain, there are at least 500 and perhaps as many as 1,000 with 350 grown commercially worldwide. In India, the world’s largest producer, mango types are usually classified as early, early to mid-season, mid-season, mid-to-late-season, and late-season.
Common early-season mangos are Bombay Yellow, Malda, Pairi, Safdar Pasand, and Suvarnarekha; early to mid-seasons are Langra and Rajapuri; mid-season types include Alampur Baneshan, Alphonso, Bangalora, Banganapally, Dusehri, Gulab Khas, Zardalu, and K.O. 11; mid-to-late-season are Rumani, Samarbehist, Vanraj, and K.O. 7/5; and late types include Fazli, Safeda Lucknow, Mulgoa, and Neelum.
Varieties sold in the United States are characterized by their size, color, and firmness. The roundest variety is called Haden, which has bright yellow flesh and a firm texture. Kent is a soft, oval-shaped mango with a distinct tropical flavor. Tommy Atkins is shaped like Haden, but with a less robust flavor. The largest mango variety is Keitt. Keitt mangos are completely green with a hint of yellow when they are fully ripe. The Francisque mango from Haiti is medium-sized and flat. There are two small varieties of mangos: Van Dyke and Ataulfo (now rebranded as ‘Honey’ by the National Mango Board). Van Dykes have a pineapple-like flavor while Honey mangos are very sweet.
References: National Mango Board, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, Purdue Extension, University of Illinois Extension.