Hailed as the “king of all fruits,” mangos(MANG-gohs) have been cultivated in India since at least 2000 B.C. In India, mango trees hold sacred status. Among the more colorful legends is one from Vedic literature in which Surya Bai, the daughter of the sun, becomes a golden lotus to escape an evil sorceress. When the King falls in love with the lotus, the sorceress promptly burns it down. From the ashes springs a mango tree, yet another source of enchantment. Finally, its ripe fruit falls to the ground, and Surya Bai steps out from it, recognized by the King as his long lost wife.
The Portuguese are credited with bringing the mango to the Western Hemisphere, planting it in Brazil in the 16th century. Today mangos are cultivated in tropical climates throughout the world, including South Florida and southern California. The large pit that traverses most of the mango’s length poses a problem to cooks trying to cut it.
To dice a mango, stand it on a cutting board, stem end down. The pit runs parallel to the flatter sides. Cut along one side a little more than a third of the way in, until you feel the pit, then continue cutting downward along the pit until you’ve dislodged a section. Repeat with the second side. Make lengthwise and crosswise cuts in each piece, trying not to cut through the peel. Push the skin in until you have pieces poking out, porcupine-style. Use a paring knife to cut or scrape pieces from the peel. Cut the pit and peel away from the remaining center section and dice the remaining fruit.
—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.