How to recognize the best mangoes?
February 18, 2011 4:42 PM   Subscribe

How to recognize the best mangoes?

I love a good mango, but I've had some really discouraging experiences buying them at the supermarket. For instance, yesterday* I bought some Peruvian mangoes that had all the outward signs of being good: Soft to the squeeze test, somewhat aromatic at the stem. But I cut them open, and while the texture is great, there's almost no flavor.

Other mangoes are very fibrous inside, which I hate, and it's not just a ripeness issue --- they retain this property well past their primes.

I'm talking specifically about the red-green-yellow mangoes found in US supermarkets. The smaller yellow ones are delicious but hard to find around here.

The flesh of my ideal mango is very soft, but not pulpy and not fibrous. A knife cuts through it very easily. It usually has a richer yellow-orange color, as opposed to bright yellow I've learned to associate with the above-mentioned lack of flavor.

I'm beginning to suspect this is an issue of the particular variety and origin of the mango. But to my eye, Kent, Tommy Atkins, and Haden all look the same.

Please help me find the juicy tasty mangoes!

* I usually let them ripen for a few days, but these were on the sale shelf and already quite soft
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
(Mango varieties link was supposed to go here)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:58 PM on February 18, 2011

My wife has real problems with this too. I can somehow always pick out perfect ones, hers are always bad. I'm not sure how I do it. I guess it's mostly a feel thing. A firmness thing mostly. Also if you look at the stem area and see some sticky seepage, that is a ripe mango right there.
posted by sanka at 5:50 PM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

I grew up with a mango tree in the front yard, so I can pick the good ones ... largely based on smell. I think this is one of those things that takes practice and trial and error.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:15 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I go by smell - somewhat aromatic isn't good enough, I want downright fragrant. Sanka's ooze of sap is also a good sign. Less green overall is good too - the red blushes/highlights are not a reliable indicator of ripeness, you want the background color to look as ripe as possible. (Ignoring the blush applies generally to a lot of fruits.)
posted by Quietgal at 7:50 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've relied on beautiful orange/red/yellow colour as a guide, but it doesn't always work and sounds like you already look for that. Otherwise, I can only 2nd what everyone else said.
posted by rainy at 8:58 PM on February 18, 2011

Nth-ing smell here. Sometimes you aren't fortunate to have them in your yard :9 so you might have to nab & paper bag one.
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 9:42 PM on February 18, 2011

Like with most other fruit, especially ones which are delicate and difficult to transport when ripe, modern varieties of mango have been selectively bred (or are produced and stored in carefully tuned conditions) so that they look ripe even when they're not. It's much harder to make an unripe fruit smell ripe.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 10:24 PM on February 18, 2011

A good fruit and veg vendor, or greengrocer, would let you try before you buy. Really good ones invite you to try anyway.

I go by smell.
posted by evil_esto at 11:20 PM on February 18, 2011

The rule of thumb among people who grew up in mango-growing parts of the subcontinent is that you should go by the smell*. Breathe in deep. If you like the smell, you'll probably like the flavour. If you cut one open and find it not quite ripe enough, then put the rest in a paper bag for a day or two.

*Unless you're one of the few connoisseurs who can actually rattle off the names of mango varieties by the hundred, in which case you might be able to do a fair bit of preliminary elimination based on colour and shape alone.
posted by bardophile at 1:26 AM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of mangoes are not ripe when put on sale in the supermarket, just like bananas. Bring them home, put them in a bowl on the counter, watch them day by day. Developing a smell is one thing, but another test, good for many fruits (pears or avocados, for example), is to notice when you get a little softening at the stem end. Don't wait for it to be soft all over, it's overripe then.
posted by beagle at 5:54 AM on February 19, 2011

In my experience, mangoes are like tomatoes in that the varieties you find in the grocery store have been chosen for the convenience of the shipper, wholesaler and retailer, not the pleasure of the customer. Those Tommy Atkins and Haydens are just not very flavorful varieties, they're merely abundant and easily shippable. Even in Florida, where I live, it's hard to find good, interesting mangoes--or flavorful heirloom tomatoes. This may not answer your question but may suggest why the answer is so hard.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 10:13 AM on February 19, 2011

They should have as little green on them as possible (none if you can find them like that where you are), even if they're still hard. They'll soften as they ripen off the tree (in your kitchen), but not get more flavor.

The problem with smell is that it will tell you which mangoes are ready to eat now, but not which will be good when they get ready to eat.
posted by cmoj at 4:28 PM on February 19, 2011

I don't have anything to add to what others have said regarding the quality of mangos, but if you've never made mango ice cream, you're missing out on something heavenly.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:49 PM on February 19, 2011

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