Mangga or mango is the most popular fruit in the Philippines and is gaining more popularity because it is so good to eat and also good for your health. It may not be a vegetable but we use it in cooking especially in our sour soup recipe we call “sinigang.”

It is native to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Southeast Asia. The trees can grow up to 30 feet tall or more depending on the variety. The leaves when young, are orange pink, then turns into glossy red and then dark green as they mature. We actually eat the young leaves when I was young. My Mom mix tomatoes, onions and “kamias” with the leaves and season it with “shrimp bagoong” and it is quite delicious. In India, they make “achar” from mango and I think that’s where we got the word achara for pickled mangoes or papayas.

The flowers are small and clustered, and have a mild sweet smell that the bees love. I remember my grandparents’ mango trees every flowering season, the trees are swarmed by these hardworking creatures and you will be assured that the fruits will be plentiful. The only enemy of the flowering mango as I remember would be the strong winds and rain. The strong winds will make the flowers fall and the rain will make it develop a fungal disease and will make the fruit moldy and not presentable to the consumers come harvest time.

Fruit takes 3-6 months to ripen and depending on the variety the fruits will vary in shapes and sizes and colors. Our variety we call “dinamulag” or “carabao mango” is the biggest mango and the sweetest too when ripe. It turns yellow in color when ripe. But we also have the variety we call Indian Mangoes which is the predominant type of mango here in Hawaii. We eat Indian Mangoes as snacks green or ripe. But our regular or common mango type is the one which we use for cooking as a souring agent for our sour-soups, we pickle them or dried the ripe ones for snacks also. As for desserts, we use ripe mangoes for fruit salads or to make juice and ice cream. With the modern technology, we can now make smoothies too. I use ripe mangoes to make mango bread just like making banana bread.

The fruit of the mango has a big seed inside and can be fibrous. If the mango is ripe enough, you can plant the seed and it will grow but you will have to wait for at least 10 years for the flowers to appear, at least that’s what I know. I remember in Okinawa, they are growing mangoes in greenhouses because it can get cold in Okinawa and the mangoes can not tolerate cold climate.

The mango fruit is so good to eat and so good for your health too although I did not know that when I was young. According to my research, mango is rich in phyto-chemicals and probiotic dietary fibers, antioxidants and essential nutrients such as copper, potassium and amino acids. Mango is now considered as a superfruit.

Incidentally, the mango wood is also important in making furniture like coffee table, chairs and other pieces of furniture. Here in Hawaii, it is considered a valuable wood. Most Filipinos use mango wood as firewood for cooking especially in the barrios where people don’t have electricity or propane gas.