(How to cube fresh mango - step-by-step photos in post)
Ah, the mango. Sweet, creamy, exotic... I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like mango. If you don't like mango, don't tell me, you'll ruin it.
There are over a hundred different varieties of mangos grown across the world. They are the national fruit of, and primarily grown in India, but range everywhere from Australia, to Bangladesh, to Singapore, Peru, Sri Lanka... and are by far the most popularly grown tropical fruit. The varieties also range across the seasons, some peeking in early spring, others in fall, and everywhere in between.
While large red varieties are most common in the States, you can sometimes find Alphonso, Ataulfo, or Champagne - small, yellow, and oblong shaped mangos.
The mango is a stone fruit, meaning there is a very large pit in the center - similar to peaches, plums, and the like. But the pit of a mango tends to be fuzzy, and the fruit itself more fibrous around it, so separating the fruit from the stone can be a little tricky. No matter the variety, all mangos have a pit in the middle, and can be sliced very similarly.
Ripe mangos will, depending on variety, be mostly red or yellow. They should also be somewhat soft to the touch - not rock hard, but not mushy or sticky. Mangos in the US have primarily been picked under-ripe and shipped from elsewhere. Although ripening off the vine may not be ideal, they can be placed on a counter or inside a paper bag until ready. Already ripe mangos can be stored uncut in a fridge for up to a week.
The flesh of a mango is generally very thick, bitter, and left uneaten. The skin and sap also contain a chemical called Urushiol - this is the same chemical found in things like poison ivy and can, in some, cause minor irritation (aka 'mango itch'). The amount of this chemical is fairly small - I am particularly sensitive to poison ivy, but have never had a reaction to mangos - and the succulent fruit inside the skin is completely safe.
How to Cube a Mango
There are a few different ways to remove the peel and pit of a mango, but this turtle-shell method is my favorite.
The pit of a mango, unlike the round pits of other stone fruits, is wide and flat. You'll notice that the mango itself is not round, either, so you can imagine the pit being shaped the same. Hold the mango upright on a cutting board, and using a sharp knife slice down one side of the stem. There's a bit of guesswork as to how close you can get to the pit, so cut slowly and let your knife guide you.
The fruit of the mango is most tender towards the outer flesh, and may be firmer or more fibrous towards the center. If your knife meets resistance, it may be hitting the pit itself or cutting too close to the pit. Tilt your knife away from the middle and continue to slice.
Repeat on the other side.
(Note: the fruit of the mango should be tender and soft - if it is firm or crisp it is under-ripe!)
Once you've removed the 'cheeks' of the mango, you can make a shallow incision near the top and cut around the outside edge of the pit. Using a paring knife, remove the skin from these strips of fruit.
(Note: before discarding the pit, you can use your teeth to scrape off any extra fruit still around it. As a child, this was my favorite part of the mango - but beware, the pit is very stringy and may floss your teeth for you!)
Hold one 'cheek' of the mango in the palm of your hand. Carefully cut lines running one direction, and then cross-lines running the opposite direction. You want the tip of your knife to cut all the way to the skin, but not through the skin. You may want to hold a cloth or towel between your hand and the mango, to avoid any risk of cutting yourself.
Once your cuts are made, simply turn the mango inside out, to resemble the shell of a turtle. Hence the name of the technique.
From here the wedges of mango can be removed with your fingers, or scraped away from the skin with a knife.
Repeat with the other 'cheek' of mango, and you're done!
One of my favorite ways to enjoy mango is in fruit smoothies, or a traditional Indian Mango Lassi - what's your favorite use for this tasty fruit?