This blog post was written by Jillian Baker, EcoViva’s Community Empowerment Tours U.S. Coordinator. She lived in El Salvador for over two years as a volunteer, during which time she encountered more tropical fruits than she previously knew existed. Out of all of them, the succulent mango earned a special place in her heart (and her belly).
A friend of mine recently left a simple comment on his Facebook page comparing the process of eating a mango to a surgical procedure. This prompted me to respond with some mango-eating tips I´d picked up during my time in El Salvador: slice from the base toward the tip, hold it away from the body lower than the elbows to avoid getting your forearms coated with juice, and feel free to eat the skin (it´s nice and chewy). This made me miss mangos. We have a package of leathery strips of dried mango in the pantry that I gnaw on once in a while, but it´s just not the same.
There was a time when I almost got sick of mangos. The family I lived with had two large
mango trees in the yard, and at the peak of the season (roughly March to May), so many pieces of fruit would fall to the ground that we couldn´t possibly eat them all. We would choose thefirmest specimens for ourselves and toss the bruised or squishy ones to the cows. This came after months of nibbling on the small, green, unripe version sold with salt and chili sauce in small plastic bags on the street corners and public buses. I had learned the names of several of the local varieties: manzano, panadé, indio, de seda, ciruelo, and the list goes on…
It seemed so strange to think about my life in the U.S., where I could only get mangos in liquid
form in overpriced juice drinks. My little host sisters seemed puzzled when I told them that
I´d only eaten one or two whole mangos before coming to El Salvador – to them, the U.S.
represented a place where you could get anything you wanted, and yet here they had mangos
aplenty falling from the trees. Indeed, it´s pretty easy to miss the magic of being able to
pick your breakfast up off the ground, rinse it off, and eat it right there (especially if you´re a
teenager charged with keeping the yard clean). But it was something that I marveled at on a
regular basis during mango season. I miss those mangos even more as I sit here chewing these
tough, dried strips, and it occurs to me that, at least in terms of tropical fruits, El Salvador is the much richer country.