This season, everyone on St. Croix has been blessed with an abundance of mangoes — if they want them. The trees produced with a vengeance after last season’s odd timing, and Mango Melee was flush with all kinds of mangoes and other fruit on Sunday.
When I (Farmer Christina) first visited St. Croix 25 years ago, I did not realize how inadequate the term “mango” really was when describing the ovoid fruit. At the time, I believed that a mango was a specific kind of sweet fruit among the many, many types of exotic tropical fruits on the island to be sampled. I did not differentiate one mango from other mangoes. I did not realize, on my first brief visit, that they all had proper names and unique flavor profiles.
If you begin to experience and appreciate and love mangoes, you may develop your own particular mango taste preferences. There are certain varietal flavors you look forward to every season, and to have a plate of contrasting mango flavors and switch between them from mouthful to mouthful is one of the most decadent cheap thrills that St. Croix can offer in the hot summer months.
With decadent cheap thrills in mind (as always), the ARTfarm brings you four distinct mango experiences this week:
Nam Doc Mai: this Thai mango seems to be a nirvana for many of our customers, who ask for it and look forward to its return every season. This smooth skinned, medium sized mango has a light yellow-green skin when ripe. It has a distinctive long flat shape with a hook on the tip. The pit is extremely flat. Inside, the flesh is decidedly yellow and completely fiberless. It is sweet, smooth beyond smooth, and buttery tasting, without the sharp citrus notes or extreme sugary sweetness of other mangoes. This is an easy-listening, ‘Sunny-after-Sunset’ mango.
Mallika: this medium to large mango has a smooth deep green skin with a delicate sprinkling of light spots. It has a very narrow pit inside, so it is a very generous mango. Its flavor is brash. If you are a child of the 1970s or earlier, you are probably familiar with the powdered orange drink that astronauts took with them to the moon, called “Tang”. The flavor of Mallika is the flavor of Tang. Sweet-sweet-sweet, warm, a bit sharp, citrus-y, and bright orange. The taste equivalent of a tap and slap P Funk baseline, mission control to the Mothership Konnection!
Haitian Kidney: medium sized mango. The skin is yellow-green when ripe. One of the “newer” favorites with light bright yellow flesh, with some ‘string’ or fibers that are reminiscent of the texture of a spaghetti squash; not hairy, but lend lightness and juiciness to this mango. The Haitian variety is a bit larger than a regular kidney mango. Mild warm mango with a cool twist of lemon is the primary flavor here. I can hear steel pan when I eat this one.
Julie: The warm, sweet flavor of a Julie mango is the touchstone summer-childhood-beach-memory flavor for many Crucians. Over and over on Sunday at Mango Melee we heard cries of delight when they saw our stash of Julies, as the harvest for this variety this year was a bit early and sparse. The Julie is often eaten at the beach in the water. With this technique, one rips a hole in the skin with the teeth (Farmer Luca says the skin is actually mild and edible), and sucks out the creamy flash of the mango, leaving the stringiness and pit inside the skin. Despite its insanely voluptuous levels of sweetness, and hairy stringiness, or perhaps because of it, the small, leathery Julie mango is the only mango for some folks, so it’s certainly worth a taste. The Julie tends to be a smaller mango, with a more textured skin that is green with a blush of pink when ready. Each bite goes from sweet-tart to warm and rich on the tongue and soothes the soul. The beach flavor echoes across the water like delicious wafting Sunday Reggaeton music from one beach over.
This post is but the start of a complete St. Croix Mango Identification Guide to assist you in navigating the complex world of mango tasting. Soon come.
For Wednesday 3-5:30pm at ARTfarm we have Haitian kidney and Julie mangoes, (and fiberless Nam Doc Mai and Malika mangoes from Tropical Exotics), pineapple, passionfruit, dragonfruit, loads of papaya, loads of sweet potatoes, Italian basil, recao, garlic chives, seasoning peppers, lemongrass, rosemary, and sweet potato greens. We also have lignum vitae, calabash trees, and pineapple slips for sale.
From our local farming friends we have fresh mild goat cheese from Bethany at Fiddlewood Farm and honey from Errol Chichester’s industrious and cheerful bees.
Come on by and visit us on the South Shore, between Ha’Penny beach and the Boy Scout Camp.