Growing up on Grand Cayman, one of my fondest memories is from summertime adventures with my cousins as we searched for mango trees to climb. We would climb the trees not just for fun, but also for the sweet and tasty rewards hanging from their branches.
Now that mango season is here again, the memories of my childhood come back to me as if it was just yesterday.
While most kids took apples and chips as a snack to school, we took “green mangos and sauce” as our snack. This would make me the most popular kid in the class, as the other kids would swarm me just to get a bite of the slightly sweet and savoury treat. The sauce was made up of vinegar, salt or seasoned salt, and pepper. My family also liked to add some chopped Scotch bonnet pepper to the sauce, making it a little spicy. I loved it so much I would drink the vinegar when the mango was gone.
Another tradition that many Caymanians have experienced is going to the beach and eating the ripe juicy mangoes in the ocean while having fun in the sand, swimming in the sea and staying cool during the summer. Eating mangoes in the ocean was a perfect way to wash away the sticky juices that ran down your hands and arms from eating them.
Mangoes are not just delicious but they also have many health benefits. They are full of vitamins and antioxidants that help protect against cancer. They are also high in fibre and have digestive enzymes, which help improve digestion. Studies have also shown that eating the tropical fruit helps improve eye health and clears your pores and skin. So while it is tasty, it also benefits the body.
While all local supermarkets, including Bay Market, sell this mouthwatering fruit, local farmers will also sell it at both the Hamlin Stephenson Market at The Cricket Grounds in George Town and at Camana Bay’s Farmers & Artisans Market on Wednesdays. If you stop by either market you’ll see local farmers are selling many different varieties of mangoes grown in Grand Cayman. The varieties grown on island and indigenous to the Caribbean include the Carrie, which is described as fibreless and turns from green to yellow when at its ripest. Some describe the aromatic Carrie’s taste as similar to a melon or a peach, with a rich, sweet flavour.
The East Indian is known as a sweet mango that goes from green to yellow and red at the top. It is stringy and while not the sweetest of the bunch, it is very juicy and can be messy to eat.
Two of the most popular mangoes among locals on island are called Nam Doc and Julie. The Nam Doc is aromatic, and becomes soft and very sweet when it ripens. While it has no fibre it is also considered the most versatile to eat as it can be enjoyed when green and is great to add to salads or for dipping in sauces.
The Julie mango is a favourite not only in the Cayman Islands, but also in Jamaica and across the rest of the Caribbean. This mango is so sweet that most locals use this type when making jams, chutney, ice cream and smoothies. The Julie is fibreless, has a deep orange colour and when ripe, becomes very soft and juicy. It’s definitely one of my favourites, too!
Then there is what locals call the common round mango, which is smaller in size than the other mangoes mentioned, very fibrous, stringy and somewhat more challenging to eat. You might want to have some dental floss close by after you take a bite into this one. Many people use these mangoes for juicing or making jam.
I encourage readers to take advantage of mango season and to try many varieties to see which one is your favourite. If you’ve never tried eating a mango like a local, why not try a green mango in sauce or just take a ripe one with you to snack on in the ocean the next time you go to the beach?