Love the flavor of mango but don’t know how to figure out if they’re ripe or how to prepare them? No problem.
First, ripeness. Mangos usually come to market more green than yellow or red, under-ripe and very firm. To check a mango for ripeness, hold it in the palm of your hand and press the mango skin with your thumb using a little more pressure than you’d use to grip a pen firmly. The mango is ripe if it feels slightly soft to the touch and has an indent where you squeezed it with your thumb. If, however,..
…your mango is firm and doesn’t feel soft at all when squeezed, it is under-ripe. To ripen mangos at home, put them in a paper bag (NOT plastic bag—plastic bags don’t allow for the air exchange needed for ripening; paper bags do), close the bag loosely, and store them out of direct sunlight at room temperature for a least a few days or longer (I put mine on top of the refrigerator to keep them in sight and in mind so that they don’t get forgotten and spoil). Check every other day or so for ripeness as shown in the photos above and store ripened mangos with other produce in the refrigerator.
Now to the cutting. What you’ll see here is the easiest, most “mess-free” way I’ve found to cut a fresh mango. I saw this technique first in Cooks’ Illustrated magazine years ago and have used it ever since.
Sharp Short Bladed (Paring) Knife
Paper Bag (if needed—to ripen under-ripe mangos)
1. The seed inside the mango is almond-shaped: long, wide and thin, and very fibrous as shown here.
To cut around the seed as easily as possible, start by securely holding the mango with one of its more narrow sides down on the cutting board. Make a lengthwise cut about 1/4 – 1/2 inch (6-12 mm) off-center as shown below to avoid cutting into the seed in the middle of the mango, and make that cut through the full width of the fruit.
Turn the mango 180°, and make a second off-center cut just like the first cut through the full width of the fruit.
2. Hold the middle piece of the mango that still has the seed in it securely in your hand (the piece will be a bit slippery). Make a shallow cut just beneath the surface of skin that starts under the stem and then continues in a strip all around the mango piece.
Cut lengthwise with the grain of the fruit fibers and shave off as much of the fleshy fruit as possible from around the seed as shown. You’ll be able to feel the tough, fibrous seed in the middle with the knife, so cut closely to the seed without cutting into it until the seed looks about…
3. Prepare the remaining two mango pieces by first making lengthwise parallel cuts 1/2 – 3/4 inch (12-18 cm) apart into the fruit but not through the skin. Then make cross cuts the same width as the lengthwise cuts, also making sure the knife does not cut through the skin.
Hold one mango piece at a time with two hands and push up the skin from below in the middle of the piece as shown so that the cut cube-shaped sections splay out.
…what you have in the bowl looks like this.
Images courtesy of the author