Magical mangos

This refreshing dessert showcases the vibrant color and tropical flavor of mangos.
This refreshing dessert showcases the vibrant color and tropical flavor of mangos. DANIELLE ROSE PHOTOS

A fruit so sweet, it makes Florida summers a treat


Florida summer is famously inhospitable. The air is thick with humidity and the heat is relentless. Late afternoons are punctuated by thunderstorms; mosquitoes rule at dusk. Even when the tropics seem quiet, hurricanes remain on our radar. But there is a reward for all the sweat and suffering: the sweet taste of a perfect mango. 

To some, a mango is a mango. For the rest of us, a mango is the king of all fruit; its season, a cause for celebration. Every summer of my childhood, I watched my grandma’s giant Keitt mangos slowly ripen into shades of rainbow sherbet. Once they yielded to a gentle squeeze, she sliced them and served them in glass dishes with dessert spoons. We marveled over each bite and always agreed it was the most delicious thing we’d ever eaten. 

She often told me stories of the ones she ate as a child in St. Lucie Village. Her mother, Sara Summerlin, planted a new, special variety called a Haden that was the pride of her garden — not to be touched by the kids. But the small turpentine mangos that grew wild around the village were fair game. My grandma, Polly, and her Summerlin cousins would pick buckets of them, bringing them to the bank of the Indian River to eat. They would bite open the skin and squeeze the pulp into their mouths, allowing the juice to drip down their chins. They always ended up with rashes on their faces the next day, thanks to urushiol, the same compound found in poison ivy, which is also in a mango’s sap and skin. It never deterred them. 

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