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Author's of 'The Produce Companion' Meredith Kirton and Mandy Sinclair give us a few wonderful tips for growing, harvesting and preserving mangoes.
Although mangoes prefer a tropical climate, they will happily thrive in the subtropics and even more temperate zones if protected from frost when young. The variety nam doc mai is reasonably tolerant of cold. Mangoes grow into large trees up to 35 m (115 ft) tall, although the royal red variety is a moderate-sized plant for backyards.
Plant your tree in an open sunny position protected from winds. Ensure the soil is well drained, has lots of organic matter, and is mulched. Grafted trees will bear sooner, fruiting in 3–4 years and producing well 10 years from planting.
Apply lime in winter where soils are acidic, and watch out for fruit bats, fruit fly, scale insects, black spot and anthracnose, a fungus that causes black dots on the leaves and can also spread to the fruit (treatments include copper spray and applying potash in winter).
Mangoes will continue to ripen indoors but are sweetest if allowed to ripen on the tree, so wait until your mangoes have coloured before picking. Pick the fruit with a 5 cm (2 in) stem so the sap doesn't burn the skin of the mango.
Many people use a 'picking stick' to reach higher fruits. If you want green mangoes, just pick them once they have reached full size but have yet to change colour.
Mangoes can get damaged in the cold of the refrigerator so are best stored at room temperature until completely ripe (and then refrigerated for another few days if necessary – but don't put them in a bag as they like airflow). They should last about a week in the fruit bowl (although they always seem to be eaten by then at my place!). Mango can be frozen for use in smoothies and sorbets.
To freeze mango, peel and slice the mangoes and lay the slices over a tray covered with baking paper, and freeze. Once frozen, pack into zip-lock bags removing as much air as possible. Alternatively, purée mango and freeze in airtight containers. Mango can be kept frozen for up to 12 months.
To dry mango, peel slightly under-ripe mangoes and cut into very thin slices with a vegetable peeler. Put them on a lightly oiled wire rack set on a tray in an oven heated to its lowest temperature, with the fan on and the door slightly ajar. Dry them for 30 minutes, then turn them over and dry for another 30 minutes, or until the slices are dry but tacky to touch. Leave to cool in the oven, then store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 12 months – but check after a week to make sure there is no condensation. If there is, dry the mango in the oven a little longer. If preferred, dried mango can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 years.
You can also dry mango slices in the sun – place the fruit on a rack on a table and cover with muslin (cheesecloth) so that bugs and dirt don't land on the fruit. Place the legs of the table in saucers of water to stop insects crawling up from the ground. The fruit should be left out in hot sunshine for 5–7 days, but brought in at night. You can also dry green mango. This is traditionally ground (you can use a coffee grinder) to make am choor ('am' is mango and 'choor' is powder in Hindi), which is used like a spice in curries, adding a sour flavour.
To make mango fruit leather, purée the flesh and spread it thinly on a tray lined with baking paper. It can be sprinkled with a little sugar or even some salt flakes, or left au naturel, before being dried in an oven heated to its lowest temperature with the fan on and with the door slightly ajar. Dry for 3–4 hours.
Check after 2 hours, and regularly from then until it is dry to touch but still pliable. Allow to cool, then cut into strips while still on the baking paper. Store in a tight-fitting airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 1 month, or in the freezer for up to 12 months.
This is an edited extract from The Produce Companion by Meredith Kirton and Mandy Sinclair published by Hardie Grant RRP $39.95 available in stores nationally and on cooked.com.au