I just got back from my travels to India. I was fortunate to be there during the mango season. I had the privilege of eating green mangoes straight from my mother’s organic garden. My mother had planted two three-year-old mango saplings when I was about the same age.
Now the mango trees are big and spreading, full of luscious bright fruits. Its changing foliage, mass of budding feathery blossoms and hanging fruits present a spectacular view. The cool trees are an abode for tropical parrots and parakeets. The full-grown mature tree produces 400-600 mangoes at a time. Green mangoes start to appear in early April on Indian subcontinent. Some branches were so heavy with fruits that they almost touched the ground. Every time I went shopping I would cut a green mango into slices and take it in ziplock bag, my valuable vitamin C in the sweltering tropical heat. There was something gratifying about cutting down a stalk of green mango and chopping the fruit into small pieces. During leisure I would dip the pieces in a mound of salt and enjoy.
In India the green mangoes are not only used in pickles but utilized like a vegetable as well. It is really white inside, appearing more like daikon, jicama, or green papaya than mango. Its juicy tart flavor is a natural bonus to an imaginative cook. India is the abode to hundreds of varieties of magnificent marvelous mangoes. There is a surprising selection of just green pickling mangoes that vary in tartness, shape and size—literally from, 1-inch to 12-inches in length.
The mango tree is very much a part of Indian customs. It has an honored place in cultural and religious observances. Its slender pointed leaves, the branches and blossoms are used for various purposes. The leaves are skillfully arranged to decorate the thresholds and doors during feasts and in marriage banquets. The farmers have a special place for the mango tree since it signifies richness. A special spot is reserved for the mango tree in the field, it provides shade and a place to relax. Some dip the flat mango pit in ghee (clarified butter) and honey before planting the seed so it grows into a healthy tree. The young growing plant is then anointed with milk so there is a harvest of sweet fruits.
The green mango is not only nutritious but is cultivated since ancient times for various medicinal properties found in the leaves and bark of the tree. The raw mango is a vital flavoring part and cooked like a vegetable in curries, stews and salads. It is used in making chutneys, pickles, preserves and sherbets. Sliced and sun-dried, it is ground into fine powder to make the mango powder. Both the dried slices and powder are used as souring agent in curries, meat dishes, soups, and in preparation of tangy spice blends.
Buy an actual ‘green’ mango in the following recipe. The fruit it is quiet hard and nearly impossible to puncture with a fingernail, available in Indian, specialty and some supermarkets. Usually they are placed separate from the ripe ones and labeled ‘green mango’. Your grocer can probably find a very green mango from his stock, if you ask.
Warm Garbanzo Beans and Green Mango Salad
Here, I have paired the green mango with bland garbanzo beans and contrasting sweet coconut. The result is—warm, inviting salad with a wonderful hint of tangy taste. Try this vegetarian spring salad for light lunch or as an appetizer for dinner. If you have leftover cooked chicken or lamb in your refrigerator, by all means use in this salad.
I make this salad so many times and forget to take a photo of the dish, I will take the picture next time and share it. In the meantime, enjoy the easy salad.
1 medium green mango, unpeeled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon brown or yellow mustard seeds
2 dried red chiles, such as cayennes or chiles de arbol, stemmed, and broken into rough pieces
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (freshly cooked or canned, drained)
2 tablespoons grated fresh or defrosted frozen coconut
½ teaspoon salt
1 small avocado
1. Wash and wipe the mango thoroughly. Peel the mango with a vegetable peeler. Using a hand grater (the fine holes of a hand grater result in a fine, fluffy texture) grate the mango, about half inch on all sides, then grate remaining fruit carefully, avoiding the large flat pit. Measure 1 cup and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds; immediately cover with a spatter screen, and cook until the seeds stop popping, about 30 seconds. Toss in the chiles. Cook few seconds until crisp and lightly browned in spots. Add the mango, garbanzo beans, coconut and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 5 to 6 minutes.
3. Mound the salad in the center of a decorative deep dish. Peel, pit, and dice avocado, and sprinkle over top of the salad and serve right away. Serves 4 to 6 as an accompaniment