The only possible thing to do after coming home from the market with this glowing fruit was to dig out some dusty pastels and spend a half hour focussing my attention completely on its color and form.  And then, of course, cut it open and slurp up the slippery tangy orange fruit.  The most perfect mango ever.

This year the early rains have pushed the mango season earlier, and the markets right now are flooded.  Nicaraguans eat mango in pretty much every form, and some other foreign friends and I have been enjoying pushing the limits of how to eat them.  It’s not a far cry to call my friend Emma and I mango nuts.

For example, here is a picture of about half the mangoes that I happen to have in my house right now.

The largest four mangos on the upper left are “Mango Papaya”, the next three to the right with the lovely rosy yellow color are “Mango Rosa”, the pile of little green ones are “Mango Liso”, and the four yellow longer ones in the front are the every abundant common “Mango Mechudo”.

The largest mangoes at the moment are three for 20 cordoba (just less than US$1) and the mango mechudos – 3 for 1 cordoba!  Yes, that is three lovely ripe golden mangos for less than a US nickel.

Yesterday on our routine visits to farmers in SosteNica’s Reforestation Project I found…yes, more mangos.

Carmen Reynaldo Morales, one of the project’s participating farmers, shows off the mangoes on his young mango tree we helped him plant.  The trees are all grafted, which means they produce more quickly and maintain their true variety (in this case a large mango suitable for export called a Tomy).  However, this tree is only in its second year, which is early even for a grafted tree to produce!

Mango flowers are large and airy.  The poke up at the ends of all the branches and then slowly tip down as the tiny little green mango balls grow heavier and heavier, dragging the branch down until each branch ends with a wiry bunch of heavy fruit.

Mango Liso and Mango Mechudo trees surrounded the tiny house of one farmer, who clearly couldn’t keep up with the harvest from these towering trees.  A mango tree can grow up to 40 meters tall, and often provide a wonderful deep shade over Nicaraguan campesino houses but also prove quite a challenge to climb and harvest.  The ground underneath our feet was littered with rotting mangos, and swarming with bees and butterflies.  The smell was sweet and alcoholic, and reminded me clearly of the smell of rotting apples in the New England orchards I know.  I calmed my panic at seeing so much valuable mango flesh rotting and wasted by thinking, this must be how horrifying an Apple orchard looks to a Nicaraguan, who’s only context for fresh apples are the tiny imported Red Delicious in the markets that cost one US dollar a piece.

Needless to say, mangoes have been making it into nearly every meal recently.  I’ve learned to snack on semi-ripe mangos with chili and vinegar sold on the streets in every busy intersection, made some amazing mango curries, mango salsa, put my good New England food preserving skills to task with mango chutney and mango-passion fruit-pineapple jam, and of course my crowning mango ginger molasses pie.

A last and final word of caution – beware of the effects of over exposure to mangos for northern temperate climate foodies.  Symptoms may include but are not limited to obsessively filling pockets with harvested mangos resulting in very sticky stained clothing; a slightly yellow mango colored glow on white skin from overindulgent eating, and immature jumping and snapping at mangos hanging on branches.  Viva el Mango!!!