More about mangoes

It really wasn’t very satisfactory to have written about mangoes yesterday without being able to identify either of the varieties that were given to my husband by our generous and hospitable friend in the countryside.

So I spent some time today in an upscale supermarket where you can find organic fruit and veg (at a fairly terrible price, way beyond the pocket of most people, but then that’s the story of organic in many countries). The idea was to see what sort of selection they would have on offer.

It turned out the really huge mangoes we were given, those glorious red and orange beasts, are named “Tommy” – which I presume are the cultivar “Tommy Atkins” from the United States. I’m fairly sure the smaller variety are “Owais” – beautiful, but extremely sweet. Much smaller than these are some I found in the supermarket, named “Fass Owais” or “Segment of Owais” rather as in “Son of…” All three are pictured below.

Mango selection

So I bought some of the “Fass Owais”, terribly expensive at EGP 50 a kilo(!!) and we tried them: with buttery, smooth flesh, sweet but not cloying, and with a stone that is much smaller and thinner than most mangoes, they were a real treat.

Also stocked by the supermarket: another variety of generous dimensions, “Naomi”. More green than orange, with a red blush, these were sourced from an organic grower, Desert Lake Farms on the Cairo-Alex desert road. In recent decades vast swathes of land have been reclaimed in the area north-west of Cairo for cultivation, including by organic farmers such as Wadi and the Desert Lake company.

Lastly, I found “Sadiqa” (“Friend”) – medium sized, elongated and with mostly green skins.

I have saved testing the last two cultivars for another day, running the risk that the season will have ended before I get round to buying them. But there’s always another year.

As for our own mango tree: it’s a young one, too junior to bear fruit. It’s also planted too close to the hedge for comfort. Even though ours is a relatively compact cultivar known as “Keet” or “Keit”, we couldn’t find another spot: I hope it will thrive.

The young leaves are reddish and soft, contrasting prettily with the older green leaves; with the glowing colours of the fruit, mangoes are beautiful trees – always provided you keep them to a manageable height and spread.

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4 thoughts on “More about mangoes

  1. Interesting, here we can just buy what is available, no choice except one shop has started selling properly ripe from the tree mangos that are flown here. I feel guilty for the air miles but they are so much better than the others that are picked green and hardy ever ripen

    • There is plenty of excellent fruit in Italy in the summer, but I guess if you really love mangoes then…. it’s a treat worth having every so often despite the carbon footprint. We are at peak mango season here in Egypt right now (the prickly pears disappeared almost overnight in late August), and the variety is impressive. My local greengrocer told me today that Naomi is the same as Tommy, though this is odd given that the supermarket was selling them under different names. Locally, the Fass Owais are EGP 45 a kilo!

  2. I read this post with interest and pleasure, as usual, and was going to write that I love mangoes, but I paused and decided to change it to I THINK I love mangoes. This is because for a while now I haven’t been able to find the type of mango I would actually enjoy eating. They are either too dry, or too sweet, or too stringy, or simply underripe. I know we don’t grow mangoes in Qatar, but there is quite a choice of imported ones in supermarkets – sadly, none to my liking, it seems. Many years ago, my husband would go into town (the Old Electricity Street in Doha, in the neighbourhood of Souq Wagif) and somewhere there, in one of dozens of dingy little shops, for a very palatable price, he’d get a box of Pakistani mangoes, which I would devour within a day. I had no idea what they were called, what kind they were, where they had come from, etc. He did it on regular basis, every couple of days or so, usually in May/June, before we left Qatar for our annual summer holiday. They were the best mangoes I’d ever had.

  3. Hello Desert Rose (surely no thorns?!) – very good to hear from you again… There is a theory that mangoes taste just as good as the atmosphere and place in which you eat them – many mango-lovers have happy memories of childhood, for instance, with the fruit at the centre of a special time. If your husband was buying Pakistani mangoes, they may have been Chaunsa; or Sindhri; or even Anwar retool. Or they might have been another cultivar, as Pakistan has at least 15, I have read. Chaunsa is in season from early June, however, so if he obtained them in May, they were more likely to be an earlier variety.
    The problem with a lot of fruit now is that it is picked too early, when underripe, especially if it is for export. Then it never has a chance to ripen naturally on the tree. What you need to do is to move to a prime mango-producing country, to revive your tastebuds…

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