Listen to Your Mango

Mangoes are like martinis. You either love 'em or hate 'em. Some varieties can taste like turpentine, but most sold in supermarkets taste like a spicy-sweet peach or a cross between a peach and a pineapple.

Squeezing and thumping is not the ticket to good shopping. Smelling is. Sniff the stem end of the fruit and select those with a pleasing scent. Reject mangoes that smell sour or alcoholic, a sure sign of fermentation. Avoid those that look like they need a health spa--the out-of-shape ones with flabby skin.

Mangoes will talk to you when they are ripe. Like a peach or a plum, a mango is ready to be eaten when it yields slightly to gentle pressure. At room temperature, moderately ripe fruit will stay fresh for one or two days.

The juicy, tropical fruit tends to drip all over your body when eaten out of hand. Cynics say that the only right way to eat a mango is standing in a bathtub while wearing a raincoat or leaning over the sink naked.

A small mango (3 1/2 ounces) is only 66 calories. Mangoes are a good source of vitamins A and C and also contain a significant amount of copper, potassium and Vitamin B6.

Beware of mango rot. Store mangoes flat at room temperature, never in a fruit basket where the fruits make skin contact. Once they start getting a black spot, it spreads like measles in a day-care center. And, like people who live in tropical climates, they don't like the cold. Do not put them in a refrigerator to ripen; they ripen best between 55 and 75 degrees. Once they are ripe, you can put them in the refrigerator for one or two more days.

Mangoes have a secret: Some people, particularly those allergic to poison ivy and poison oak, may break out when they come in contact with mango skin or sap. So, to be safe, peel them under running water or wear plastic gloves. But once the skin is gone you are safe; eating the fruit won't cause an allergic reaction.

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