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KNOWN ASMa Muang in Thai or Mangifera Indicia Linn to those botanically minded, this luscious tropical fruit is now in season and many Thais will be salivating at the thought of indulging in this annual bounty.

Like chocolate, mangoes are a comfort food. Yellow, ripened fruit can satisfy taste-bud cravings and the rich, creamy texture feels good on the tongue. What’s more, they are actually good for you _ and it’s not often that one can indulge in a comfort food without watching the waistline or feeling pangs of guilt!

The mango is native to Southeast Asia (although there are now in excess of 1,000 species around the world) and many people suggest that mangoes from this region are best. Certainly no one is going to argue about Thailand’s mangoes " they are simply delicious. The mango tree is no mean specimen; it is evergreen and can reach a height of some 60 feet " although many are “cropped” short of their maximum height in order to make harvesting more manageable. A mango tree will produce fruit some 4-6 years after planting and they require hot, dry weather in order to set and produce a good crop. Exactly the type of weather we have in Thailand during summer.

A green, unripened mango peeled and sliced, is crunchy to the tooth, has a sour/sweet taste and, when dipped in a mixture of sugar, salt and chili gives a sparkling burst of flavour. The yellow, ripened variety may be peeled and eaten “as is” " soft fleshed, packed with juice and sweetness with a creamy texture on the tongue. Thais love to eat Mango with Sticky Rice and many stallholders set up shop solely to prepare and sell this wholesome Thai dessert. In Thailand the favourite Thai dessert is Khao Niew Ma Muang, which is a combination of glutinous rice, sugar and coconut milk, with a serving of fresh, sun-yellow mango slices. With desserts like these diners may well forego a starter or main course! Ripe mangoes have a rich, fruity fragrance at the stem and will yield to gentle finger pressure. The colour will usually be yellow but there may also be tinges of red, orange or green. Thais love to eat them both ripened and unripened.

Dessert mangoes vary in size, skin color and shape, some being broad, green-skinned and almost round, others being pale golden and slender, and still others having a reddish tinge to the skin.

When the heat of April and May is at its height and the humidity is at its most grueling, mangoes ripen to the delight of everyone in Southeast Asia. Mangoes come in many clearly distinct varieties and can be divided into two broad categories: those that are eaten green (unripe) for their sharp tart flavor, and dessert mangoes, enjoyed for their sweetness and juice.

The mango season is unfortunately brief, lasting for only about 6-9 weeks. The fruit deteriorates quite rapidly after it has ripened, so mangoes may also be canned and processed into juice - fortunately without any loss of flavor.

The color, texture and flavor of mangoes combines well with milk products and make good ice creams, yogurts and especially milkshakes. Mango juice is high in vitamins A and C, and delicious in its own right, or when mixed with ice and water for a very refreshing cold drink.

Fortunately, mangoes are not only good to eat but also good for us. They contain an enzyme which soothes the stomach and are high in vitamins (A & C plus beta-carotene), antioxidants and minerals. Naturally high in fibre, a mango a day (during the season) will ensure that you’re regular guys and gals! In fact, one mango will provide about 40% of the body’s daily fibre requirement and will replace potassium lost through perspiration. An average size mango will deliver only 1 gram of fat and 110 calories " so it’s safe to have another one!

As you walk around the fruit and vegetable markets of Chiangmai you will see an abundance of mangoes on display. So it’s a perfect time to treat yourself and indulge. For those of us not counting calories then try a sundae of mango ice cream or a wedge of mango cheesecake. During summer season in Thailand mangoes make the moment so do take time out to enjoy this luscious, succulent, tropical fruit.o

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