Most people think a mango is a mango. Not true! It’s like comparing a Navel orange to a Blood orange, or a Granny Smith to a Pink Lady. A Champagne mango is vastly different from a Kent mango, from a Haden, and so on.
Now, mangoes require warm, generally tropical temperatures as anything under 30F can kill a mango tree. This means that large scale production is rare in the United States and limited to California, Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
The mangoes we buy here in the U.S. come mostly from Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala and Haiti. These countries all grow different varieties that come into ripeness at different times of the year, meaning that mangoes are available year round.
Each variety has a different flavor, texture, and characteristics that make them unique…
Ataulfo / Champagne: These bright yellow, smaller mangoes were given the name Champagne mangoes partially for marketing purposes, and also for their perky flavor. The taste is sweet and creamy with a firm flesh that is excellent grilled, roasted, or served straight. Ataulfos have a small seed, which gives them a high flesh to seed ratio. They’re generally available in markets March through July and generally come from Mexico.
Francis: This darling little mango hails from Haiti. Its turmeric-colored flesh and green-yellow skin make it one of the cheeriest fruits around. The skin becomes more golden as it ripens. The flavor is rich, with a slight spiciness and acidic whisper.
Haden: The Haden started the creation of large-scale mango industry in Florida in 1910, but the industry has shrunk due to hurricanes and development. Luckily, it’s making a comeback in kitchens throughout Mexico and the U.S.. This firm mango is rich in taste and extremely floral. When ripe the green skin turns yellow and takes on a red-orange blush. This is the mango you’ll likely find in the market in April and May.
Keitt: Grown in Mexico and the United States for North American consumption, it is also grown throughout much of Asia where they are enjoyed once ripe or pickled when still a bit green. There are few fibers in these mangoes, which means the flesh is juicy and easy to cut. You have to take a leap of faith when it comes to ripeness as a ripe Keitt’s skin may be dark or medium green in color. The telltale sign is the pink blush that may form. Keitts are generally available in August and September.
Kent: Developed in Florida in the 1940’s, Kents are ideal mangos for drying or juicing. The mango is dark green with the occasional red blush, and develops yellow undertones when ripe. This mango is popular in Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. It has two growing seasons and is available in late winter and throughout summer.
Tommy Atkins: Originally from Florida, Tommy Atkins is the most widely grown commercial variety coming into the U.S.. The flavor is mild and sweet, while the flesh is quite fibrous making it a prime candidate for slow cooking such as stews, curries, and braises. This mango finds its way to you from Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. Peak availability generally ranges from March to July and October to January.
Alphonse / Alphonso: This Indian variety is a mild flavored, firm fleshed mango that can range from purple to yellow skin with an oblong shape. It doesn’t find its way to the United States too often. However, if you come across one you should take it home immediately and enjoy it with a spoon or use it to garnish a cocktail.