The best things in life grow on trees
Since coming to Nazareth, my diet has changed dramatically. The smell of shawarma sha-wafts up to my flat from the main road. Meanwhile, rumour has it that a local shop sells falafel wraps for 10NIS. I’m committed to eating my way around town until I find it.
But even those treats pale in comparison to my favourite food. I love mangoes the way Augustus Gloop loves chocolate. Seriously, I can’t get enough of those juicy fruits. If they grew in the UK, I’d probably be a mango farmer instead of a developer.
Thankfully, mangoes grow well in the hot Israeli climate, and I’ve been taking advantage of nature’s generosity.
The last time I enjoyed this many mangoes was when I was in India. The Hindi word for mango is ‘aam’, and they were sweet like you wouldn’t believe.
Each year, Delhi hosts the International Mango Festival, the world’s largest celebration of all things mango-related. I didn’t have the chance to go when I was there, but it looks amazing. The festival features 400+ varieties of mangoes from around the world, culinary demonstrations, taster sessions, and a mango eating contest that looks as absurd as it sounds:
The rules state that contestants must eat 3kg of mangoes in 3 minutes. If that’s all there is to it, I quite fancy my chances; I ate seven mangoes for dinner the other week, and that was after eating one at lunch.
Mangoes are so popular in South Africa that a low cost carrier - Mango Airlines - even named themselves after the fruit! When I visited several years ago, I vividly remember shops literally selling them by the bucketload:
As far as varieties go, South Africans are pretty spoiled for choice. Cultivars grow more than 60 types in mango farms and orchards centred in the north eastern part of the country. Interestingly, a lot of that produce never makes it to a fruit and veg stand. Almost half of the annual crop is picked before it ripens and is turned into a spicy sauce called ‘atchar’, in a process that involves pickling it with chillies. I personally don’t like atchar, but it just goes to show how many ways there are to appreciate mangoes!
I thought it would be fun to build an app that allows mango fanatics like me to record information about every mango they’ve ever eaten. I’ll write about how I did this from a technical standpoint in a separate post (I promise it will be more focussed than this one!)
Here is the rating system I created to address the different dimensions of mango appreciation. It’s called the MANGO Index, which stands for:
Mouthwaterability is a mango’s way of letting you know that you’re in for a treat. Mangoes with high mouthwaterability make your mouth erupt into song and dance before you’ve even taken a bite.
While low mouthwaterability is never a good sign, it doesn’t necessarily mean a mango won’t be nummy or glorious. Some mangoes score poorly on mouthwaterability because their outward charms don’t reflect their true nummyness. The MANGO Index accounts for this by giving less weight to mouthwaterability than other factors.
Smell can make or break a mango. While unripe mangoes don’t have much of an odour, ripe ones give off a sweet scent that says “Hey, peel me already!”. Congratulations, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Given the close relationship between our senses of smell and taste, great smelling mangoes usually make for great eating. On the other hand, an aroma score of zero equates to a perfectly odourless fruit, and likely indicates low nummyness and gloriousness.
Nummyness (meaning: deliciousness) is the most important criteria for a mango. When you eat a nummy mango, it should be love at first bite.
It’s theoretically possible for a mango to score 0 in this category - for example, if it were rotting and maggot infested. Personally, I’ve never eaten one that was less than a 3. Most mangoes fall somewhere between here and here.
You know that warm feeling you get when you recline on the sofa with a full belly on Christmas Day? That’s gloriousness - the satisfaction you feel after eating a really good meal. “That was glorious,'' you think, as you lick the mango pulp from your fingers and crack open a cold can of Rubicon. It doesn’t get much better than this.
A final weighted score that combines all of the above (Mouthwaterability, Aroma, Nummyness, Gloriousness).
So there you have it - the world’s first (to my knowledge) digitised mango scoring system. It’s by no means perfect - I’m toying with the idea of adding a metric for flesh-to-stone ratio - but it’s a start!
To see the MANGO Index in action, check out the public API that contains scores for every mango I’ve eaten since October 2019.