Pursuing An Elusive Mango, Finding A Worthy Substitute



We went in search of Alphonse mangoes this weekend, the legendary mango of India. You can always buy the canned pulp at Indian groceries, and it is intoxicatingly sweet and perfumey in smoothies and ice cream.

The last few years, Apna Bazaar on Nolensville Road has received shipments of Alphonse mangoes. At $40 per case, they better be good. We made the trip and asked the proprietor, who explained that he wouldn't be getting Alphonse mangoes this year. The air freight is about $13 per case, and there's a further markup for irradiation and steam sterilization required by the USDA. That steam treatment put little tiny black spots under the skins of the fruit, so people didn't want them, especially at $40 case. Apparently it's different in Canada.

Whole Foods has Champagne Mangoes, which also get a lot of chatter among mango lovers. We bought a couple to test against Mexican-grown mangoes with an ordinary and forgettable varietal name. Let's call them "

Champagne versus Herman. The Champagne mango is homely and yellow. Herman is plump and red. Champagne mango is silky in texture, with no fibers. Herman mangoes have firm flesh with fibers that will necessitate eventual flossing. Champagne mangoes have a concentrated, complex perfume. Herman mango -- watery.

The Champagne mango really is better, and at two for $1 at Whole Foods, they're about the same price as Herman mangoes found any number of places.

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