Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Humble Tool Shows off Its Versatility

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Humble Tool Shows off Its Versatility

Article excerpt

Forget SnackMasters, smoothie blenders, and sandwichmakers. My favorite kitchen gadget is a potato peeler. Not because I peel many potatoes, you understand. What I do peel these days - several times a day - are mangoes.

We have two old mango trees in our garden here in Zimbabwe. This time of year their branches are loaded with fist-size fruit, dangling from long stalks like giant gooseberries.

Late in the afternoon, the three of us do "the mango walk." By then the day's heat is dipping. The shade under the trees is thick and cool.

My husband gets to choose the mangoes. Armed with a stick, he climbs the stepladder and knocks down the ones he fancies. On the grass, my son and I stack the fruit in a basket. There's a wet dribble at the top of each mango, where the stalk attached it to the tree. If you lick your finger and taste the moisture, it's bitter. It's nothing like the sugary juice that runs through your hands when you're cutting up mangoes for dessert.

These days we eat mangoes by the bowlful, plain and thinly sliced. No baking, boiling, or stewing for me: It's too hot in the kitchen.

I'm getting good at recognizing perfect-for-peeling mangoes. They're half yellow and half green, with a dappling of spots near the bud end. Don't be put off by the green. On any other fruit it spells unripe, but on mangoes it means firm and sweet.

What you don't want are big black bruises. That makes the mango hard to peel; the potato peeler gets jammed. On a good mango, you can slide your potato peeler smoothly through the flesh, liftingthe peelclean away. There shouldn't be any mango threads left in the peeler's "window." It's much like peeling a potato, but mango peels aren't long artistic curls. Mango peel comes off in chubby chunks, about finger-length.

Once I have the fruit peeled, I start to chop. There may be a more professional way to do this, but I take a bread knife, lever it into the flesh until I can feel the stone, and slice away: one sliver, two, three, four. …

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