The first time we travelled as a family to Maui, we wanted to show the girls all the little experiences that can make a Hawaiian vacation an adventure. Ready to explore those things that were different from home, we stopped at a VW bus parked at the side of the road with fruit for sale. The ancient hippy in his bleached-out tank top, led us into the back of his van to show us boxes of fruit. He took hold of my wrist, and placed two of his fingers on the top of my fore arm and gently pressed down, “this is how a ripe mango should feel, firm, but giving”. I’ve never forgotten that simple little lesson, and use it unconsciously when shopping.
During the same early March trip, we were buying fresh fish burritos for supper, and I asked the time of year that mangoes ripen. We were told that they usually started ripening in May. After just having bought some “local” ripe mangoes from our friendly neighbourhood hippy, I realized that he was just another huckster using a line for a sale. Although, the mangoes were delicious, and we ate them happily believing that they were handpicked from a tree somewhere in the jungle.
The burrito maker told us about a tree loaded with mangoes, which was going to be removed in a vacant lot. We headed out following the directions for the lot, with one daughter full of excitement, and the older one in disbelief that her parents were actually going to go pick mangoes in a vacant lot. She was old enough to continue on, while the three of us made good use of our climbing and reaching skills and picked many hard green mangoes.
Packing to return home, the mangoes were tucked in amongst our clothing to prevent bruising. Once home, they all eventually ripened, and were perfect. Just firm enough, yet giving, as I’d been taught.
Here’s a simple little compote to dollop on rice pudding, tapioca, custard, or Panna Cotta.
Makes about 1 cup or enough for 6 servings.
1 c of ½” chopped, just ripe mango (I use one average size Tommy Atkins)
2 oz crystallized ginger, cut into ¼” pieces
¼ c sugar
3 T water
2 T lime-juice
¼ t cardamom
Mix all ingredients together in a small saucepan.
Bring to a gentle boil, stirring over medium heat.
Lower heat to medium -low, and continue cooking for 8-10 minutes, stirring every minute or so. It should be gently bubbling. Reduce heat if needed.
The mixture will darken very slightly, and become syrupy.
Pour mixture into a bowl, and let cool to room temperature before serving.
Do ahead: cool, and refrigerate for up to a week in a covered container.
Before using, let the compote sit out at room temperature for an hour.