Food Culture, Ingredients

Mangoes Fill Cuzco’s Markets with Delight

Sliced Mango

The Mango, an aphrodisiacal fruit, is very common in Cuzco in the months of December, January, February, and March, the height of our rainy season, when beauty abounds.

Generally the mango grows in places like the upper jungle, what we call the “ceja de la selva”, the jungle’s eyebrow, and in places where there is a lot of humidity. In Cuzco’s region this is the zone of Quillabamba. From there come a great variety of delicious fruit of which just one is the mango.

The mango tree is woody and tall. It tends to rise to some thirty meters, almost one hundred feet. This is because it grows among a lot of vegetation in the jungle and has to compete with the other trees for the sun’s rays, so it grows tall. The fruit that it gives is yellow in color.

The largest and finest mangos are sent for exportation. Peru even exports mangos to the United States and to Europe, though most of these come from our country’s north coast, especially Piura. Mangoes are one of the most important agricultural products we export, coming in behind coffee and asparragus but before grapes.

Ripe Mangoes Ready to Eat
Ripe Mangoes Ready to Eat

The outer peel of the mango is not very thick. Between it and the large seed that mangos have is found the fruit’s pulp, yellow or orange in color. From the seed fibers extend outward to pull the fruit to it, making it hard to separate the pulp from the seed.

The taste of a fresh mango, however, is so good that it makes the work of dealing with the fibers worth it. Some people use a knife to peel the mango and slice the fruit from the stone. Others squeeze it to make it squishy and then cut a piece of the top. They squeeze and the pulp flows into their mouths until it is gone. A mango is a wonderful treat.

One of my cousins named Leonel who lives in Quillabamba says that all the people of Quillabamba, young and old, know how to pick mangos even when they are on the highest branches of the tall tree. It would be very painful to fall from there.

Leonel says that to get the best and largest mangos you have to climb up to the highest branches and come down  without a scratch. Those who can do this he says are considered the best.

When you first start climbing and picking mangos you get lots of scratches and some scrapes and you can only pick the smallest mangoes. But with time and practice you get to be good and can reach the biggest fruit.

Transporting mangos in trucks is difficult, though it has to be done to get the fruit out of the jungle and into the country’s cities.  Much of the fruit gets damaged

Eating a Mango
Eating a Mango

The trucks arrice in Cuzco at 4 am. They come to the wholesale market called Vino Canchón and from there they are sent to all the city’s different markets so they can be sold throughout the day.

Kids love mangos since they are delisious and sweet. When you finish eating the pulf of the mango leaves your hands sticky. Many kids continue to suck on the mango’s stone pulling from it every last bit of pulp. They leave the pit  with its fibers standing on end, clean as a fresh bathed child. It is curious how children eat this fruit, but we all did it when we were young and it is very pleasant to rember our childhood every time we eat a mango.

Furthermore, mangos are found all ove the place, even when they are not in season. The fruit is there now, but all year long you can get canned mangos, mango juice, marmelades and many other products.

In Cuzco we love our mangos.

Mangoes for Sale in the Market
Mangoes for Sale in the Market

 

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