Back then, I remember quite so well during our family trips to the country to visit the grandparents, every pit stop we had, dozens of young children came running to our vehicle, with their baskets full of mangoes (when they were in season), trying to sell some to us. These were really exciting times for me because I loved mangoes. Still love them now.
A British child would have had apples, but mangoes were the first really super sweet fruits I ever tasted as a kid! The taste, as I remembered it was heavenly and I used to look forward to eating mangoes when they were in season.
Every corner you turn in Nigeria especially in rural areas, you would see a mango tree! and as I remember, you could see young children throwing up sticks just so they could get one or two fruits to drop and then pick them....priceless, especially when luck strikes and the ones that drop are the the really ripe, juicy, sweet ones!
I am not sure of the origins of Mangoes but I can safely assume that they might have been introduced by the Portuguese colonial masters?.....the fact that this fruit does not have an original traditional/native Nigerian name supports my assumption. In the local dialect(s), mangoes are called mangoro, or mongoro (clearly coined from the original name mango).
It is believed that because of their somewhat luxurious taste, flavour and sweetness mangoes, were seen as an exclusive fruit. To illustrate this, there is a Yoruba proverbial song which suggests that mangoes are only for the kings and elites and not for the poor! They grow only in the orchards of the king and royals.
Mangoes are oval shaped fruits with a large hard stone in the centre, a yellowish - orange flesh surrounding the stone, with a green skin which turns yellowish/orangish/reddish when ripe.
There are different varieties, which vary not in shape, but in size and flesh composition. Some varieties are quite large and have a firm flesh, which turns into a soft pulp when over-ripened and others are smaller in size and have a fibrous, stringy, hairy mesh-like flesh which holds all the juicy goodness. These smaller fibrous hairy ones are my favourites and they are popularly known as cherry mangoes.
The larger more fleshy varieties are featured in a lot of fruit salads, and salsas and relishes. It is not common to cook mangoes in Nigerian cuisine. Ripe mangoes are eaten raw (sometimes with the skin) before or after meals and generally as a snack.
Did you know:
The mango tree is considered to be a cash crop in some tribes in Nigeria and it was quite common practice, (still is in some rural parts) to bequeath a mango tree to a child or relative! A portion of land could be sold with clear instructions that the sale does not include the mango tree growing on it! The tree could be willed to someone else other than the land buyer or owner and could be sold (as a separate sale) for substantial sums! This is true also for the agbalumo (udara) and locust bean trees.
Note of warning: the sap which comes out of a mango tree leaf or bark is known to cause skin irritation or lesion. Also burning the wood of a mango tree is known to release dangerous fumes!
Nutritional Data (Based on one medium size mango 207g):
Calories: 153 kcal
Dietary fibre: 4 g
Carbohydrates: 32 g
Protein: 1 g
Vitamins: A, C, E Folate
Minerals: Copper, Potassium, Phosphorus, Manganese, Calcium