Annual Mango Festival

Yesterday was the city of Portoviejo’s 5th annual mango festival. The festival was hosted by the Universidad Técnica de Manabí, at the jardín botánico (botanical gardens), a beautiful and enjoyable place to visit in its own right.

Mango Festival poster

Poster for the Mango Festival, held at the botanical gardens in Portoviejo

 

The gardens, created in 1993, boast 10 hectares of tropical flora to explore and even includes a surprisingly challenging maze formed from tall hibiscus hedges. Other features include a nursery with plants for sale, food pavilion, open park area (see photo below) and a host of natural fauna that call the gardens and the surrounding 35 hectares of hillside reserve their home, including large iguanas, turtles, and many tropical birds (mot-mots, oropendula, and parrotlets to name just a few).

View towards the stage and food vendors

 

We are pretty serious about mangoes in our household, often consuming multiple mangoes in a single sitting, especially during mango season (Nov-Feb). During this season, mangoes are ridiculously plentiful and very inexpensive. Tom recently purchased a giant bag of  big, juicy mangoes for $15. The price per mango came to roughly $12 cents each. So far we’ve eaten about half of them, chopped and froze another quarter (mango smoothies, mango daiquiris!) and we still have so many left!

Remaining mangos

The remains of our disappearing bag of mangoes

 

We’ve even gone so far as to request a custom mango painting for our kitchen from our artist friend Kerri (the same artist who created our beautiful ceibo painting that we featured on our ceibo blog post).

mangoes

Mango painting made locally by our friend Kerri (feel free to contact us if you’d like to get in touch with the artist to see more of her artwork for sale)

 

So with this background it comes as no surprise to find our crew at the mango festival. There we enjoyed mango cupcakes, a meal of grilled chicken smothered in a mango sauce, and even sipped on a couple of mango mojitos.

Mango cupcakes and ice cream

Mango cupcakes and ice cream

 

There are a surprising variety of mangoes grown in Ecuador. At one booth they had 16 different kinds on display. Our favorite mango thus far is the “Reina” mango, a giant yellow-skinned mango that is pure juicy pulp with no stringy fibers that get stuck in between your teeth.

Many types of mangoes are grown in Ecuador

Many varieties of mangoes are grown in Ecuador

 

The festival also had the requisite, WAY-too-loud music which may be found at any public event in Ecuador but we actually enjoyed the live music and dance performances. There were also locally made goods for  sale, products for which the province of Manabí are known, such as hand-woven straw hats and bags,

Hats woven from straw

Hats and headbands woven from paja toquilla straw and banana leaves

 

tagua jewelry and bamboo knick knacks,

Hand crafted products made from bamboo and tagua

Hand crafted products made from bamboo and tagua

 

Plus fruits jams, chocolates, and assortments of ají (hot sauces) flavored with mango and other fruits.

Assortment of products from Manabi

Assortment of products from Manabi

 

While Kai got his face painted, adoring women took turns cuddling and taking photographs of Aiden.

babies

Aiden being treated like a local celebrity

 

Bellies full of mangoes we ventured back home to San Clemente and spent the remainder of our Sunday afternoon playing with on the beach…after which we came back in and somehow managed to eat MORE mango!

 

Mango heaven

It is my pleasure to report that Ecuador produces lots of mangoes. While most of the varieties that are exported to the US come from the Guayas region, the province of Manabi nevertheless boasts an impressive crop. Large evergreen mango trees can be seen along the sides of the road on the drive between Crucita and Portoviejo. Between the months of roughly November and March their long, slender foliage are laden with fruit and roadside stands with crates of mangoes for sale abound.

There are many varieties locally available with peels ranging in color from yellow to red. One of our favorites is a small, yellowish variety called “mango de chupar” (sucking mango). As the name implies, you eat it by sucking out the pulp. You accomplish this by first mushing it up (skin on!) by rolling it around on a hard surface and squeezing it. Then you make a little hole towards the top by peeling/biting away a little piece. From the little hole you suck out the sweet mango goo as you continue squeezing around to direct the goo towards the hole. Yum. Once you’ve gotten as much pulp as you can using this method, you peel off the skin and eat what’s left around the pit. Keep your dental floss handy for this latter part.

I’ve always loved mangoes but never enjoyed the process of prepping them. That all changed one day when a fellow in Costa Rica introduced me and Tom to a super easy, non-messy way to cut up your mango.

Step 1: Cut down either side of the mango pit, creating two mango “boats” (for lack of a better word)

Step 2: Holding one of the halves in your palm, make slices into the pulp to create a grid. **obviously being careful not to cut through the peel and thus your hand**

Step 3: Flip the pulp instead out…Voila! Now you have easy-to-pluck-off mango cubes.

Step 4: Now you just cut away the remaining fruit from around the pit and you’re done!

And the cleanup is easy 🙂

To conclude this little ode to the mango, I have to mention that the mango truck stopped by my house a couple of days ago and I purchased 10 big ol’ juicy mangoes for $1.00! Just another reminder of why I appreciate living here!