City Bites

SIGNS OF SPRING: Ataulfo Mangoes — the only mango you need

So long Tommy (the common red and green mangoes). Ataulfos are the best mango — perhaps the best fruit — you'll ever eat

Under the category: you learn something new every day — allow me to share what was, until recently, a mystery to me.

Those large shiny red and green mangos we so commonly see in supermarkets — first of all, they are named Tommy. Who knew? Tommy Atkins to be exact.

Second, it’s thanks to Mr. Atkins that these are the mangoes on our shelves. He was the guy who, back in the 1950s, convinced commercial growers in Florida to take up the production of these attractive mangoes in spite of what appeared to be a widely recognized fact: they don’t taste good. We’re talking bland, tart, and unpleasantly stringy little suckers.

Yet those crappy mangoes keep beckoning us to buy them — I confess, I sometimes fall for it. And not because they are delicious (they are not). But then I just blame myself for not letting it ripen long enough on the counter. Instead they persist, quite literally, because they happen to be durable, disease-resistant, and have what supermarket managers seem to value above all else, a long shelf life. In other words, food industry puppeteers love them. To my knowledge, Tommy became — and remains — the most common mango sold in this country.

But come the end of March, another mango makes a fleeting appearance — a smaller, golden-skinned mango called the Ataulfo or Manila. Food writer Corey Mintz wrote a love letter/manifesto for Ataulfo mangoes in the Toronto Star recently, describing Tommy’s flesh as being closer to cheap chocolate, while Ataulfo’s are like ganache-filled truffles.

“Their flavour resembles the love child of peach, banana, pineapple, and butter,” wrote Mintz.

The problem is, if Tommy is the only mango you’ve ever tasted, I fear you may have already struck fresh mango off your grocery list — calling it a waste of money. What a travesty, then, that you could miss out on one of the greatest pleasures of the produce aisle.

Look for Ataulfos for sale by the case in Chinatown or at Farm Boy and load up on as many Ataulfos as you can handle.

Sorry Tommy.