Pink disease, sooty blotch, stem cankers, black mildew, scab, shoestring rot, felt fungus, twig blight... These are just a handful of the myriad diseases that the humble mango is up against. The sprawling medical textbook of fungal conditions and bacterial perils that threaten the mango is so extensive it's nothing short of a miracle that any of these tropical fruit reach our shelves. But they do - in all shapes, sizes and varieties.
Somewhat ironically, given their susceptibility to disease, mangoes are among the healthiest fruit you can eat. They are packed with nutrients like copper and potassium, dietary fibre, vitamins (A, B, B6, C and D) and carbohydrates. And don't throw away the peel - eat it! Granted, it's not the best part of the mango, but it's full of antioxidants, including carotenoids and a host of friendly acids that combat free radicals. In ayurvedic medicine, mangoes are used to balance doshas and give energy. So now that you know mangoes are so good for you, all that remains is to choose a variety and dig in.
Thankfully, there are probably more mango cultivars than there are mango diseases. From Tommy Atkins to Kensington, Scuppernog mangoes to Colombo Kidney, there are hundreds of varieties including the sweet and the sour, the pulpy and the fibrous. Many of the mangoes available in the UAE are from India and Pakistan, and they are among the best in the world. Indeed, mangoes are believed to have been cultivated on the subcontinent for more than 4,000 years. And they have gradually made their way around the world, through South East Asia and Africa, Australia, the Americas and the Caribbean. In fact, where the sun shines and the rain falls in good measure, mangoes flourish.
Wherever your mango is from, test its ripeness by giving it a good feel - it should give slightly when you squeeze it. A ripe mango will exude a sweet perfume, and should be reddish-orange in colour where it has been exposed to the sun. If your mango isn't ripe yet, pop it in a plastic bag with a couple of ripe bananas - the ethylene gas given off by the bananas will help it on its way. Perhaps the easiest way to eat a mango straight is to slice it lengthways either side of the flat oval pit. Then take each slice in turn and cut a criss-cross grid into the flesh without cutting through the skin. Turn the slices inside out and you'll have a mango hedgehog from which bite-size cubes can be bitten or sliced off.
You can add mangoes to curries, rice dishes, salads, salsas, smoothies, ice cream, soups, pickles and pies. But however you prepare your mango, just consider how lucky you are to have a genuine little survivor on your plate. A survivor, that is, until you gobble it up.