The Belize Mango: Big, Beauteous and Bountiful
It’s that time of year in Belize again
What are those kids doing up in trees? Why are people walking around smiling and sticky with stains down the front of their shirts? What are all those big flat seeds suddenly appearing on the ground? And what is that lovely smell emanating from all those houses?
It’s June and mango season is in full swing in Belize.
Yes, it’s that time of year again when mango famine had turned to mango feast and everyone gets into the act, eating this delicious fruit raw, juiced, in baked goods or put up as jams and preserves while debating passionately on which of the many species is the best.
Mango trees have been in Belize as long as anyone can remember, and long before commercial cultivation they were seen in many a yard and scattered along roadsides, often growing as a result of someone tossing away a seed after a snack. Villagers along the coast in areas such as Gales Point Manatee would load up dories (dugout canoes) and make the long haul up to Belize City to sell them in the markets.
Mangos are now commercially grown, but the backyard variety is still the mainstay of local consumption, with reputations made or broken on the strength of one’s mangos.
The mango, or Mangifera indica for the botanically inclined, is indigenous to south and southeast Asia, has been a big part of India’s culture and cuisine for thousands of years and is one of the most widely cultivated tropical fruits in the world. The mango is a hearty and long lived tree, with some still bearing fruit after 300 years. The long taproot can travel 6 m or 20 feet below ground to, along with feeder and anchor roots, support trees up to 40 m (131 ft) tall with evergreen leaves and small flowers giving off a sweet aroma.
As the national fruit of India and the Philippines, and the national tree of Bangladesh, mangos have been bred into a huge assortment of colours, shapes, sizes, textures and flavours, with some 400 varieties now grown around the world.
In Belize, the most popular local varieties are the Blue Mango, Judgewig, Julie, Number Eleven, Slipper and Thundershock, while Haden, Kent, Keitt, and Tommy Atkins are the most common commercial varieties.
And there are as many ways of enjoying mangos, as there are varieties. While fresh off the tree or market stall, ends bitten off, peeled and chewed is the most common in Belize, mangos lend themselves to being prepared as sweet, savoury, salty, spicy, green, ripe, raw, pickled or cooked. In Burma and Thailand shredded green mango salads are popular, as are chutneys and curries in India, drunk as lassis, juices, nectars and smoothies and used in ice creams and yogurt desserts.
At Chaa Creek’s Mariposa Restaurant, where Head Chef Mario Alejandro Mendez endeavours to use fresh local ingredients as much as possible, fresh mangos are now featured on the menu, appearing in treats such as the mango compote cheesecake pictured here:
And here’s an easy recipe for a popular take on the piña colada – a mango version that’s delicious as is or can be enlivened with a generous splash of rum – however, if adding rum, it is strongly recommended that you stay out of trees after drinking.
Mango piña colada
- One large mango, peeled and seeded
- ½ cup of yogurt
- Cup coconut cream or coconut milk
- Cup pineapple juice
- Cup ice cubes
- Squeeze of limejuice
- Grated nutmeg (if available)
Toss everything but nutmeg into a blender and puree until smooth. Fill glass and top with sprinkle of nutmeg. Depending on the mango and individual taste, sugar may be added while blending.