Paraguay is paradise for mango lovers. Throughout the summer mangoes are available in copious quantities and are thus very affordable (sometimes even free for the picking). This year, in particular, Paraguay seems to be experiencing a bumper crop of mangoes. Throughout the departments of Central and Cordillera there are mango trees with branches bowing from the weight of this delicious (and, for many foreigners, exotic) fruit. Here are a couple of the varieties available, how to get them, and some ideas for how to consume them.
“Mango nacional” (Paraguayan mangoes):
These are the mangoes you are most likely to see dangling from trees throughout the country (except for the Chaco, I think). In fact you´d be hard pressed to find them for sale anywhere since they are so easy to come by. They are smallish (8-10 centimeters long) and have a yellowy-orange skin when ripe. Paraguayan mangoes are very sweet but also quite fibrous. Have your dental floss at the ready if you´re going to eat them as-is and if you´d like to use them for juice or smoothies I´d suggest using a strainer to get rid of the fibers. It is best to pick these off the tree; most of them bruise when they hit the ground and start to ferment almost immediately. If you manage to find decent ones on the ground (the ones that fall on the grass usually survive intact) use them right away!
Mango rosa/Mango brasilero:
These are the kind you are most likely to see for sale in supermarkets or by the crate-full at roadside stands, though there are plenty of mango rosa trees around so you can still manage to gather them for free in certain towns and neighborhoods. Mango rosa are large (13-18 centimeters long) and round with a reddish pink hue when ripe. Their creamy texture makes them easier to eat and cook with than their Paraguayan counterparts. These mangoes go by many names – mango rosa, mango brasilero, mango durazno- but, according to several vendors I spoke with, they are all the same variety, known as “Tommy Atkins.”
Mango pakova/Mango banana:
A less common variety worth seeking out, if you´re a mango lover. “Pakova” is the Guaraní word for banana. Some vendors will claim this fruit is a mango crossed or “injertado” with a banana, though, frankly, this seems impossible. More likely it gets it´s name because the long slightly curvy shape is reminiscent of a banana. The mango paokova has a creamy, banana like texture and a more subtle sweetness than the mango rosa. They can be about 25-30 centimeters long. I have only seen them for sale by fruit vendors on Rt. 2 between Caacupé and the turnoff to Piribebuy (km 46 better known as “el eucaliptal” due to all the eucaliptus trees) and by certain vendors at Agroshopping in Asunción (where they are much more expensive).
So, what to do with this glut of mangoes? Once you’ve had your fill of eating them plain (this may take a while) you could try incorporating them into smoothies and frozen alcoholic beverages or turning them into ice cream. Or you could try your hand a preserving them with this simple recipe from Paraguayan food blog Tembi’ u Paraguay. Also, keep in mind, once the season is over mangoes are hard to come by, so it isn’t a bad idea to freeze some for later in the year, either in chunks or in puree form in ice cube trays or Paraguayan ice bags. Do you have suggestions for mangoes? Share them here or at the Discovering Paraguay facebook page!
Interesting mango fact: According to this article discarded mangoes make up 40% of the garbage collected by the Municipality of Asunción.