Monday, February 4, 2008

Pickle mango

Pickle mango is so popular you can use it like money.

In late summer everyone with access to a mango tree goes into business. There are pickle mango sellers along the roads, going from door to door, from the back of trucks, at the beach, the rodeo, the baseball game, outside the supermarkets.

Pickle mango is made from green mangoes. crunchy and tart. The little, prolific "common" mango variety is preferred for this, not the elite varieties such as Haden and Pirrie. Common mangos have fine textured flesh and are extra-lemony, like Granny Smith apples. The green mangoes are peeled and the flesh cut off of the seeds. The mango-slices are then soaked for a day or two in a mixture of vinegar, sugar, water, and li-hing mui spice.

Pickle mango is versatile, you can eat it anytime, as a snack, as an appetizer, as a fruit, as a vegetable, as a condiment, as dessert. Locals eat ripe mangoes occasionally, reservedly, almost with disdain, but pickle mango is craved, coveted, eaten by the pound.

For years, between the age of 3 and 6, pickle mango was the only vegetable substance, aside from white rice, that my nephew would willingly eat.

Pickle mango has a great deal of nostalgia appeal. It reminds everyone who has grown up in Hawaii of childhood, in which at some point or another one climbed into the hospitable arms of a mango tree with their turpentine-scented sap, and crackly red-veined leaves and picked a mango, green or ripe. That is, one was initiated into the tribe of mango-lovers.

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