"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Mango madness

A term I frequently hear used to describe this time of year is "mango madness". It is the hottest part of the year and when the locals go a little loopier than usual. It is also Christmas, the wet season, holidays and school holidays. However I am using the term a little more literally today.
I was offered some mangoes recently by a friend named Norm, "Fifty bucks for a boot load and pick your own". Sounded good but I wondered why they were so cheap, I suspected these were either leftovers unwanted by the pickers or else they were stringies.
For those who did not grow up in North Queensland, turpentine mangoes AKA "Stringies" were the first mangoes grown up here. They were bought in by the first white colonists and were found in all of the oldest areas. As a kid I would often be wandering around in the bush and would come on a huge old abandoned tree at the site of an old homestead. Nothing else would remain except perhaps some brick foundations and rusty tin. The trees were huge, I remember some that must have been thirty meters tall at least. Every summer in town they would dump literally tonnes of fruit on the ground where it would be piled into heaps to "compost" (read here -Rot. It had a smell I can still remember thirty years later). The smell of the trees gave them their name "turpentine mangoes" as the sap did indeed have a distinctly turpentine smell to it. The name "Stringy" came from the fibrous strings that ran through the flesh of the fruit and stuck in your teeth. A far cry from the modern hybrids so plump and soft fleshed. However there was nothing wrong with the taste of stringy mangoes and as kids, we were real connoisseurs and would only go for the best from the tree. As a rule we would only eat the fruit we picked and would disdain anything that had hit the ground, that was "for the bush pigs". At night the flying foxes would descend in the thousands to feast on the fruit. They would scream and squabble in the trees all night, dropping fruit onto the roof with a crash and crapping on everything is sight. You would never stand under a mango tree at night for any reason, to do so would almost certainly ensure you would be either pooped on or worse still, belted with a falling unripe mango. Likewise cars were never parked under the tree, bat poo is a very good paint stripper!
You could also eat the unripe mangoes if you know how. Raw they are like very hard green apples, but you would only ever eat one, any more than that and you would spend all night on the toilet. The local Chinese community used lots of green mangoes in their cooking and we often saw families gathering the mangoes from the trees long before they were ripe.
Anyway, back to the subject, I was assured by Norm that these were in fact Bowen hybrids. These are a top line mango indeed, also there was absolutely nothing wrong with them at all, they were just going to cost too much to harvest. So I arranged a time and went to visit Norm. Arriving at his rather nice farm on a stinking hot day I found that the mangoes were indeed exactly as he has said. Rows upon rows of fully grown trees were heavily laden with fruit needing to be picked. Norm explained that it would cost him eight thousand dollars to hire staff to pick, wash and pack all of the fruit. With the current prices and the glut of mangoes on the market he could only expect to get paid around four thousand. He looked pretty down about the whole thing. Mango madness indeed.
So I paid him fifty dollars for a boot load. I actually drive a Ute so I had brought three large tubs that I thought were about the size of a car boot. Norm saw these and asked if that was all I had to fill. Norm, like me cannot abide waste and I get the impression he would do anything rather than stand by and let the whole crop hit the ground. He left me to pick my fruit and I quickly picked three tubs worth of prime large organic mangoes. I then went and apologised to Norm- I had picked from the first two trees only and you couldn't see a bit of difference at all.
 At home I laid the fruit out on a trestle table to ripen. We actually intend to flesh off and freeze most of the fruit so we can enjoy mango all year round. Of course before this happens we need to sate ourselves on fresh fruit eaten as it ripens.

The Mango Civil War, North against South!
The Child Bride and I differ on how to eat a mango. All my life I have eaten fresh mangoes by slitting the skin into quarters lengthwise and then peeling the skin off a side at a time and eating it off the seed.
The northern way, slit the skin into quarters.

Then peel back each quarter and eat the flesh off the seed.

 Estela instead cuts the cheeks off the fruit before cutting a grid into the flesh of the cheek and turning the skin inside out.
The southern way. Cut the cheek away from the seed.
Cut a grid into the flesh
Reverse the skin so the flesh pops out.
I had never seen this method before moving down south in my teens so I call it the southern style. Certainly the Northern style uses more of the fruit with less waste but the southern style is pretty. So the wife and I have agreed to disagree.

1 comment:

  1. Eating mangoes is messy in either case! Lyle and I agree on one thing at least - mangoes are disgusting :P