I didn't realize how much I adored mangos until I moved to Panama. I grew up in California, which grows almost every fruit and vegetable you can imagine...except mangoes. I can't remember the first time I tasted a mango, but I'm sure I was a young adult. I had probably purchased frozen mangos, or those tasteless fruit slices that grocery stores offer in their ready-to-eat section. Obviously, I was underwhelmed as I have no memory of it.
When I moved to Panama, I ate my first real mango. I remember it vividly. I had to stand over the sink because the juice was dripping down my arms. I'm not a messy eater, so this would have been disturbing if it weren't for the fact that my taste buds had fallen in love. I've since learned how to eat a mango so it's not so messy--you can slice it like an apple, or cut it in half and slice the mango meat into cubes.
Last year during our idle hours of the Covid lockdown, my husband found a mango tree on the resort property of Playa Bonita in Panama. Every few days, he'd go climb the mango tree and harvest more mangoes. During that time, I played with every mango recipe imaginable. My two favorite recipes are the oh-so-refreshing Mango Mimosa and Mango Cheesecake Parfait (my own creation).
I have a client from Chicago who grew up in India, and he found bliss when he found the mangoes of his childhood in Panama. Like apples, there are dozens of different varieties--some large, some small, some sweet, some tart. I prefer the ultra-sweet mangoes, which tend to come from smaller fruit. Many of our maids and laborers live in the nearby fishing village of Veracruz, and most people have mango trees in their yards. Over the years, they have learned the fastest way into my heart is to bring me freshly picked mangoes.
The most heartbreaking thing about the Mango Panama connection is that mango season is so darned short. Other produce--like avocados and bananas--grow all year long, but Panama mangos start in June and are done in July. Since we're at the end of July now, I am mourning the loss of my beloved mango season, even though one of my friends from Veracruz delivered several dozen mangoes to my doorstep just a few hours ago.
Fresh and juicy mangoes are just another reason to love Panama. Since you know I'm a foodie, here are just a few sweet and savory ideas to tantalize your taste buds.