Joginder Randhawa was born in Northern India and came to Charlotte 25 years ago. I was raised in South Florida and came to Charlotte 27 years ago.
Besides our transplant status, we’ve got something else in common: A serious love of mangoes.
Sweet as ripe peaches, juicy enough to run down your arms when you suck the pulp off the flat seed standing over the sink. It’s not summer without mangoes.
I ran into Randhawa, an ER nurse at Presbyterian Hospital in Matthews, last week while I was digging through cases of mangoes at Patel Brothers, the Indian market across from Carolina Place Mall in Pineville.
We compared experiences and realized we were both raised in places where mangoes were so plentiful, we took them for granted.
“When you are a child (in India), you are always eating mangoes,” she said. “A lot of people have trees. They wake up and the mangoes are on the ground.”
When I was a teenager in South Florida, there were so many mango trees that people would put out paper sacks of them by the side of the road in the summer, scrawled with the message “Free – Take Them.”
When Randhawa and I both moved to North Carolina in the 1980s, those days were gone. Oh, mangoes would show up for a few weeks in the summer – at exorbitant prices. I remember being shocked the first time I saw a mango with a price sticker on it.
It wasn’t just the idea of paying for something that I thought of as common. The price itself was an eye-opener, creeping on a couple of bucks. For a mango?
These days, mangoes are back in my life. Thanks to changes in import rules and demand, Indian markets bring in mangoes from Mexico and Florida by the case in the summer, usually at prices so reasonable, you can get them for 50 cents to a dollar each.
There are all kinds of mangos now, too, from the little yellow Ataulfos, sometimes called champagne mangos, to the big green and red Tommy Adkins variety.
Finding a ripe mango is tricky. You can tell when an Ataulfo gets too ripe – it wrinkles. Other types develop more rosy or orange coloring. But some stay green even when ripe. Feel for a little softness under the skin.
Getting into a mango is tricky, too. Personally, I like the porcupine trick: Hold the mango on its side with the stem facing away and try to visualize the flat seed. Cut down along “the cheek” on either side.
Use your knife tip to cut the oval slices into squares and turn the skin inside out, so the squares bristle up. Trim what you can from the seed, or just stand over the sink and gnaw at it, the cook’s reward.
Randhawa slices her mangoes and leaves the skin on, so she can peel the flesh away with her teeth.
There’s a lot you can do with mangoes. Mix them with red onion, cilantro and chiles to make salsa. Substitute them for bananas in quick bread. Puree them and freeze them in frozen-pop molds.
But that’s another thing Joginder Randhawa and I have in common. We like our mangoes just as they are.
“Just cut them and eat them,” she declared. Agreed.