In Hawaii there are a number of yearly phenomenon that herald the arrival. Though summer doesn’t officially begin for another couple of weeks, we are already seeing that, unofficially, summer is here. Obviously, school is out, the days are getting longer (until summer actually starts), and the South Shore has begun fielding swells from the South Pacific.
But for those of us that were fortunate enough to have grown up in Hawaii, another sure sign that summer is hear is a delicious one: mango season. Mango trees are prominent neighborhood features, common in virtually every residential community. Mangoes are plentiful, almost tediously so, and residents take loads to work, little league games, almost any type of social gathering, in the hopes of making a dent in the sheer volume of mangoes in their yards.
Rotting mangoes have a pungent, even unpleasant fragrance. Also, they attract bees. Kids learn early on that leaving ripened mangoes on the ground to rot means that before long bees swarming in the yard will make the eventual cleanup a stinky, sloppy, and painful proposition.
The most common types of mango in Hawaii are the Haden and the Pirie. Haden mangoes have a vivid coloring, ranging from red to yellow over the peel. Piries are more consistently yellow with a thinner skin than the Haden. The taste of each is, of course, quite similar. The University of Hawaii Horticulture Department has developed the high-quality Exel variety, which bears fruit regularly and often flowers in the off season.
I grew up preferring the Haden variety, because that was the most common type in my neighborhood. Long and languid were the summer days of my youth spent with friends, skateboarding around Niu Valley and gorging ourselves on a seemingly unlimited supply of mangoes hanging from the limbs of many dozens towering mango trees. Their owners were always happy top let us help ourselves, as it saved them the trouble of clearing fallen mangoes from their yards. We were always happy to help.
With so many mangoes available during mango season, residents here have come up with a variety of creative ways to prepare mangoes. Most families that have a mango tree have their own family recipe for pickled mango, which actually uses the unripe mango for its firmness. No two family recipes are the same, and they are often jealously guarded secrets.
Another popular preparation is Li Hing Mango, which uses the Chinese sweet/sour powered plum to preserve and enhance the mango’s taste. Other popular uses for mangoes are mango bread, smoothies, salsa, and ice cream. There are different ways of getting past the skin of the mango to the pulpy goodness inside, but the preferred method is still just peeling one and digging in.