One of the good and bad things about living in the Dominican Republic is that there is very little imported fruit and vegetables – at least not where I live, so we can only eat things when they are in season. Now it is the mango season, which everyone looks forward to for weeks.
Traditionally in the Dominican Republic they say that mangos are in season after Easter Week – in practice it is during May, and the season lasts until August. The trees are everywhere and laden with fruit. Where I live, in the countryside, every house has at least one tree and we have planted 10. Although we will have to wait four to six years for the first fruit, it doesn’t matter as everyone shares and the neighbours are bringing bags of mangos around on a daily basis.
The mango originated in Southeast Asia where it has been grown for over 4,000 years.The name ‘mango’ is derived from the Tamil word ‘mangkay’ or ‘man-gay’. When the Portuguese traders settled in Western India they adopted the name as ‘manga’ and then ‘mango’. The Portuguese then brought the mango to the Caribbean.
The trees will grow to 60 feet tall and some to even 100 feet. They need hot, dry periods to produce a good crop and here that is exactly what they get as we have very little rain from January to May. They say it starts raining after Easter.
There are over 1,000 different varieties of mango throughout the world, the most popular ones being Tommy Atkins, Haden, Kent, Keitt, Ataulfo and Francis. The capital of mangos here in the Dominican Republic is the area of Bani on the south coast, famous for large red and green mangos known as Banilejo. Every year they have a mango festival where thousands of people flock to taste all the different mangos. Another one we have a lot of here is called gota de oro or gold drop mango.
They are rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants and contain an enzyme with stomach soothing properties similar to papain found in papayas. These comforting enzymes not only help digestion but help to give a feeling of contentment that people experience having eaten mangos. I have one or two a day – my husband and the rest of the community here will have more like 20.
There can be a problem eating mangos though, as although the idea of eating them straight from the tree is nice, you have to wash them as the skin can have an acid on it and it can burn. Some people are very sensitive to it, and can react severely with swollen lips, ulcers and problems breathing.
It can be a little boring just eating mangos on their own day after day, so I try and find different recipes which use things I can find her. That will cut out cream and gelatin I thought ice cream would be out of the question until I found this recipe. Take four mangos and make a pulp out of them, then add 2 tablespoons of sugar, half a can of condensed milk, two cups of milk and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Whisk it all up then freeze overnight. In the morning whisk again and freeze for a few hours. Of course it would be easier with an ice cream maker, but in the absence of that this works well. I tried to make mango toffee too, but that was a sticky mess! So was mango fudge. Next year I think I will save up some jars and try for green mango chutney.
Although I love my mango and yoghurt for breakfast, I will not be sad to see the end of the season as with the mango season comes the flies – hundreds of them. Once the season is over, the flies disappear again, so I am looking forward to that. The next fruit to arrive is the avocado – and that is one I am definitely looking forward to and luckily all the neighbours have avocado trees as well!
Lindsay de Feliz lives in the middle of nowhere in the Dominican Republic with her Dominican husband, one stepson, 8 cats and 3 dogs. She was formerly Marketing Director of various financial companies in the City of London, and left the UK around 11 years ago to travel the world as a scuba diving instructor. She eventually came to the Dominican Republic on a 6 month contract, fell in love with the country and its people and stayed. Lindsay has a blog www.yoursaucepans.blogspot.com and is currently writing a book about her experiences over the last 10 years.
Lindsay de Feliz is the author of What About Your Saucepans? Published by Summertime and available on Amazon in both book and kindle versions.
Read Lindsay's other Expat Focus articles here.