Friday, February 3, 2012


Photo courtesy of Paula Henry

Here in the NT, it’s the end of a blistering summer.  And while I often associate pyramids of cherries and plums and nectarines as the quintessential summer fruit, let’s not forget the less-than-humble mango.  And we have mangos in abundance and local in Central Australia.  You can buy a whole tray of Kents each Saturday from a truck at the local servo for $30.  They are grown in Ti Tree, about 100kms north of Alice Springs.  They are beautiful and fleshy, with no strings, but they’re missing something.

Mangos are a fruit that need to be smelled as well as eaten.  I have never been able to get over the scent of pesticide on mangos being sold in Australia’s fruit-fly free zone.  It is an absolute compromise, and almost worth a trip to the NT or North Queensland (or Broome) to experience a pesticide free mango. However, my most disappointing mango experience was purchasing one from an African man in the metro in Paris. I was feeling home-sick at the beginning of a European winter, and it was as far from a mango as I had ever eaten. It was one of those defining moments when I realised I needed to return to Australia.

Growing up in north Queensland, I have often found it difficult to reconcile the price of mangos in the fruit-fly free zone with the rotting mangos littering our school grounds as a child.  They may have been turpentines, a variety of I haven’t seen for years, and one with a big aroma!

There are mango groves throughout north Queensland, planted by the kidnapped South Sea Islanders who worked on the cane fields.  My mother was often finding secret groves and collecting green mangos for her annual green chutney.  Apart from a green mango, the aroma of a mango is an essential part of the eating experience.

So, we now have a glut of mangos, and they’re ripe, not green, and don’t smell as pungent as I’d like. So, what do with them?  My Italian Nonna would make a beautiful mango jam that I would eat by the spoonful, but I recently tried a new sticky rice with mango recipe and it was a big success.  The recipe came from my sister while she was in Cambodia over the Christmas break, visiting schools for orphans and taking cooking classes in her spare time.  I had previously tried to steam sticky rice Laos style, with very disappointing results.  This recipe and process is much easier and tastes great.  Thanks Pauly