It's a most wonderful time of year to be in Bali.
The rains have finally come. The garden's growing so fast that my gardener, Wayan, can barely keep up. Once the rain starts, I eagerly await the annual infestation of houseflies. That's right: house flies. For when the house flies invade its always a sure-fire sign that the many mango trees around my house are in full bloom, their branches heavily laden with my favorite fruit.
While others fill their hours buying gifts for the coming Islamic Lebaran and Christian Yuletide - I, instead, disappear for long periods only offering the excuse "gone mango shopping." For me, no rainy season is complete unless I manage to "fill" my shopping list for golek, harum manis and mana lagi - just several of the many delicious varieties of mangifera indica to be found in supermarkets and roadside fruit stalls at this time of year. In fact, such is my love of the mango, that I ask almost everyone I meet if they'll be traveling to Banjarmasin in Kalimantan (Borneo) - home to the dark-purple katsuri mango, specific to that area and considered the very best of the species.
Indonesia harvests nearly a half-million tons of mangos during their limited season each year. I am told, that at the height of the season a good negotiator can sometimes secure mangos for less than Rp. 5,000 (US$ 0.50) a kilo. Sadly, I always pay at least twice that amount, unable to feign the required disinterest of an accomplished mango purchaser. Pathetically, I succumb to my mango infatuation at the very sight of the fruit, cooing over and cuddling the mounds of mangos on offer.
The mango was probably first brought to Bali by Buddhist monks from India sometime around the 5th century B.C.. Early texts tell of how the Lord Buddha sought solace meditating in mango groves. Propagated throughout Asia, the mango was then brought to the Middle East by Persian traders and eventually South America by the Portuguese.
Rich in vitamin C and A, and an excellent source of dietary fiber, the mango is known to have anti-viral, anti parasitic, anti-septic, cough suppressive, expectorant, contraceptive, aphrodisiac laxative and cardio tonic properties.
I ask: How can anything that good for you also taste so good?
But, there's more! Mangos contain comforting enzymes that not only tenderize meat but are proven to soothe the human spirit with feelings of peace and contentment.
The Best Way to Eat a Mango
I am told that my near-fanatical search for mangos during their limited seasons renders me even more lacking in social graces than normal. Is that possible? Yet, given the choice of convivial human company or the solitary delights of eating a ripe mango - I'll vote for the fruit every time. After all, friends tend to be perennial; mangos are seasonal.
If this 'king' of fruit has any drawbacks it must be that the moist "dripping" bounty of the mango tree can create havoc with any standards of sartorial neatness. Accordingly, I am known to disappear for entire afternoons into my bathroom, jealousy guarding my horde of just purchased juicy, sweet mangos. For, as any dedicated mango maniac will confirm, the only way to truly savor a mango is naked in your bathtub.
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