Reader, as you know I get excited about a lot of seasonal foods, but perhaps the food I am most excited to feature this year is the Haitian mango. Why? Because this mango and I have a history.
Our love affair started 2 years ago in the spring, when I noticed a fragrant, sweet smelling bumpy yellow-green fruit next to them glossy and perfectly shaped Tommy Atkins mango. You know the Tommy Atkins well. It’s from Hawaii. It’s round, red and yellow…a slightly tangy mango that is perfectly acceptable, but not really exciting. It’s, got a long shelf life. It travels and imports well. It’s remarkably unremarkable.
Which is why the sweet smell that I noticed was unusual. Atkins mangos aren’t fragrant. Ah, but the less attractive Haitian mangoes were! I picked up mango after mango sniffing one after the other, and I read the label. Just when did we start importing mangoes from Haiti?!
I squirreled away my find, and planned to eat them for breakfast as they ripened. But they proved too tempting. I ate one for dinner with a fish taco. I just had to know if it was as sweet as it smelled.
My god was it good! I mean juices dripping down my chin good. Covered in juices and not caring good. The flesh of this mango was tender, the pit stringy but firm. What a find!!
I cleaned out my grocer, week after week, until one day, they were gone. Just as they appeared, they disappeared.
“They are seasonal,” my grocer told me. “Next year,” he promised.
But the next year, Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake. Destruction that crippled the country. The economic and structural damage still haunts this poor but beautiful nation. That year, we didn’t receive any Haitian mangoes. I didn’t think I would ever see them again. I listened to a This American Life broadcast about the mangoes and the economic conditions of the growers and distributors. It was heart-breaking.
And then, one day, a few weeks ago after I returned from my Curaçao trip, there they were! Stacked high and proud! The delicious Haitian mango had made it’s triumphant return! I see them everywhere. At Eatly (fancy!), my local Korean grocer (less fancy) at grocery stores… They are everywhere in and around NYC. I hope they are everywhere in the country!
I hope, dear reader, that you go out try this mango. Immediately. Before the spring is over! Chose a nice firm one which is honey yellow, and speckled slightly green. And write me. I want to hear what you think of them!
Photo Credit: Lance Madson