Mango purists (and I count myself among them) will rant about which mangoes are best until the cows come home. We’re pretty unanimous in our hatred for that hard red football known as Tommy Atkins, the variety that most often passes for “mango” in these parts, especially in the off-season, in the way that Macs or Golden Delicious tend to be what most people think of as an apple, neglecting the hundreds of other varieties.
In my local supermarket lately, there has actually been an assortment of mangoes. Old Tommy Atkins is there, but as mangoes are in-season right now in the Caribbean (the season in India, specifically for Alphansos finished in early June), there were a trio of options. Since it’s rare to find so many varieties all in the same place – at least here in Toronto – we bought one of each to compare.
In our supermarket society, we sort of take for granted that all produce will be accessible at all times. And while the idea of seasonality is becoming more prevalent for locally-grown foods, we tend to not think of things like oranges, pineapples or mangoes as having a season, when in fact, they do.
For a brief period of about 6 weeks from the beginning of April to mid-May, Alphonso (aka. Alphanso) mangoes are in season in India.
The only place in Toronto to get them is Little India, where a number of the small grocery stores carry them. Available in boxes of either 6 or a dozen, Alphonso mangoes are not cheap. We paid $23.99 for a box of 12. They’re also smaller than the average mango, but what they lack in size, they make up for in flavour.
Even unpeeled, the bowl of mangoes fills my kitchen with their scent. Cut open they smell both floral and spicy at the same time. It is said that once you eat an Alphonso mango, you’ll never go back to those hard stringy yellow ones. Sometimes an Atulfo (the Mexican variety) will suffice – again if they’re in season, which is only a few weeks before the Alphonsos come to town – but nothing compares to the flavour of these luscious mangos flown in from India.
Yes, I know, they’ve got a scary food miles number. I don’t care – I eat them once a year, and forsake mangoes for the rest of the year. (Actually, I just found canned Alphonso mangos at my supermarket. Once the fresh ones are done we’ll crack open the can and see if they compare.)
The only problem with Alphonso mangoes is that they don’t have a very long shelf life. Which means we’ve been eating the things at every meal to use them up before they go bad. For breakfast yesterday, I sliced them and served them on top of coconut rice pudding. Today we ate them with oatmeal.
There’s only a few left. Fingers crossed the canned ones are just as good as fresh so I can have Alphonsos year-round.