Mangoes… have been cultivated in the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years and reached East Asia between the 5th and 4th centuries BC. By the 10th century AD, cultivation had begun in East Africa. The 14th century Moroccan traveler, Ibn BaMangga is the Tagalog word for ‘mango.
The most common variety of mango in the Philippines is what Americans refer to as champagne mango. It’s been called Manila mango, Ataulfo mango (named after its Mexican grower) and Honey mango. Filipinos call it manggang kalabaw (carabao mango) while the Philippine government refers to it as ‘Manila Super Mango’ and is reputedly in the Guinness Book of World Records as the sweetest in the world.
Other popular mango varieties in the Philippines are Pico (Piko), Katchamita (Indian) and Pahutan (Mangifera altissima).
The Manila mango is more slender than the large mango varieties such as the Tommy Atkins or Kent with which Americans are familiar. The Filipino mangga has yellow-orange skin which wrinkles once it is very ripe. The flesh has an almost buttery texture and is very, very sweet.
In other countries, a mango is peeled with a knife akin to the way you’d peel an apple. This is possible because the mango variety they are peeling has very firm, not so juicy flesh. Peeling a Filipino mango this way is almost impossible because the flesh is too soft.
Filipinos slice up a ripe Manila mango lengthwise, producing three flat slices, the middle slice containing the large seed. With the outer slices, you either scoop out the flesh with a spoon or make cubes using the “hedgehog” method — make a crisscross grid with a knife, turn the flesh out with your hands and then scrape off the chunks.
Filipinos also love eating manggang hilaw (green, unripe mangoes) raw either plainly with rock salt or with the fish paste bagoong. Mango juice is popular and is even sold in cans and Doypack stand-up pouches by the Zest-O company. It’s a favorite flavor of locally made ice cream. Dried mangoes are eaten by the locals and are a top export product.
Fresh Philippine mangoes meant for export are sent within 12 hours after harvesting to a factory to receive Vapor Heat Treatment. They stay in the VHT chamber for about five hours from pre-heating to cooling. No chemicals are sprayed on them; they are merely steamed. This process is to satisfy the phytosanitary standards set by Japan to which the mangoes are exported.
Trivia: Australia only allows fresh mangoes coming from Guimaras Island, which is famous for its Manggahan Festival. Curiously, statistics show that the top producers of mangoes are the provinces of Pangasinan (30%), Isabela (15%), Negros Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, and Nueva Vizcaya.
In the Philippines, mango growers are classified as backyard growers, commercial growers or corporate farms. Half of the mango supply comes from backyard growers, defined as those who own five to 20 fruit-bearing trees.
Trivia: The mango fruit belongs to the genus Mangifera and the family Anacardiaceae — it is closely related to the cashew!