Yep, it’s that time of year again. If you drive around the area, you will see several mango trees bearing fruit and some even dropping their fruit already. Seeing them makes me happy. Mango is probably my favorite fruit to work with, and one of my most favorite flavors. It’s just as “Florida” as an orange.
If you want to produce your own mangoes, you’re in luck — they are easy and grow pretty fast compared to an orange tree. If you get a grafted plant then it should produce fruit in 3 to 5 years. A tree grown from seed will take 7 to 8 years to make fruit. Oranges will start to produce fruit around the same timeline, but the tree itself grows a lot slower than a mango tree.
There are several species of mango, but virtually all the mangoes grown here are Mangifera indica, native to India. But they grow well here, and have been widely accepted in Florida. There are several groves over on the east coast that are producing mangoes commercially, and a few in Lee County as well.
We also have hundreds of different cultivated varieties (cultivars, for short) on mango. There’s even one named after Tim Tebow. Really? Apparently a Florida nursery owner developed a new type years ago and named it after the former UF quarterback. The Tebow mango is noted to be less fibrous and ripens during the mid-summer.
Mangoes are delicious and can be eaten out of hand or be an ingredient in all sorts of recipes. I use mango for a lot of things — sauces, grilled slices, and most especially mango salsa.
There’s also mango puree, which you can make yourself or buy in the frozen fruit section at local markets. If you make butter sauce using wine, try mango butter sauce instead. Simply use equal parts of wine and mango puree instead of plain wine. It will make for less cook time on the reduction, because the puree is already kind of thick so it’s easier to suspend the butter into the mixture.
This product can also be used in delicious desserts — for example, mango crème brulee. Just cut your cream by 25 percent and replace it with the mango puree when making your custard.
But mango salsa is hard to beat. It’s so easy, assuming you don’t mind a bit of knife work. Just think of it as practice. I have spent a lot of time over the years chopping everything needed to make this delicious and versatile salsa. I sometimes serve it with chips, but it’s also an amazing topping for fish, chicken and pork.
Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.