It may have rained pennies from heaven for a certain Mr. Sinatra, but here it rains mangoes. I can’t tell you how many close calls we’ve had strolling down our tree-lined street. A rustle from the canopy above us and splat—down comes a mango. We’re luckier than the mangoes, though. Some are fortunate to land on the grass or are still hard enough to survive the twenty-to-thirty-foot drop. The majority, however, spill their sweet yellow guts and become bug buffets.
Before we moved to the Philippines, we were advised that we’d be drowning in mangos. I was surprised when we landed and I felt like I was only wading in a kiddie pool. Sure, there was a bin of them in the produce aisle and the choice of dried mango products was impressive. Every restaurant offered at least two varieties of mango smoothie (green and ripe) and there were food stalls in the malls and at street fairs that just sold fancy mango drinks. Still, I thought there’d be more.
After seven months in hotels, we finally moved south of the city. When we went house hunting (unfortunately Matt vetoed us doing House Hunters International), one of Matt’s requests was a yard with a mango tree.
Be careful what you ask for, right? As fate would have it, the
mansion house that became ours is in fact on a street named for the sweet fruit. Our yard is surrounded by mango trees and they shade our street from one end to the other.
We moved into our house in April which is smack in the middle of the “summer” months in the Philippines. Every day here is hot—but the hottest days where the temperatures reach into the upper 90’s (mid-30 C’s) and the humidity makes it feel like the 100’s (surpassing 40 C!)—are March, April and May. This also coincides with mango season.
The mango trees around our house seem to flower and produce fruit constantly, but the hot, sunny days of summer quickly ripened the mangoes and every week our gardener collected boxes and bags of the fruit for us.
Side note: most of the trees around our house are Indian mangoes. Some of the people we’ve met here are surprised that we actually like these mangoes. They are definitely tarter than the Philippine mangoes, but are great in a smoothie or in mango jam.
For a good two months, we made mango everything; mango bread, mango muffins, mango lassis, mango stir-fry, mango salsa. We gave bags of mangoes to our helper, driver and gardener. Still we had more mangoes than we knew what to do with. I was finally feeling the mango mania I pictured before we moved to the country.
I won’t say we got “mangoed-out” because we still love the fruit and there’s nothing my kids will down faster than a plate of mango slices, but the novelty wore off a bit. Plus, we’re now in rainy season, so the fruit isn’t getting as much exposure to the sweetening power of the sun, so many of them fall before fully ripening. These days we collect our mangoes in ones and twos rather than in kilos.
Part of the fun of expat life is learning new things. I’ve learned some interesting facts about mangoes in the Philippines.
- Mango is the third largest fruit export from the Philippines (behind bananas and pineapple).
- There are more than 200 varieties of mango.
- The carabao (or champagne) mango is one of the most recognized varieties internationally.
- Mango plus chocolate is one of the best flavor combinations in the world—seconded only by mango plus cardamom.
Ok, that last fact may be based on my own bias, but I could eat mango and chocolate or mango and cardamom every day.
When we leave the Philippines in a couple of years, I’m sure we’ll miss the mangoes. For now, however, we’re becoming experts on cutting, cooking and enjoying the fruit. What’s your favorite way to eat mango?