PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 August, 2005, 12:00am

What is it? A fruit that can be eaten green or ripe, fresh or dried. The varieties range in length from about 5cm to 16cm and longer.

Where are they grown? In warm climates such as India, Mexico, parts of the United States, Australia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

What do they taste like? That depends on when they're eaten. When green and unripe, they taste sour and astringent and are usually used in salads and chutneys. When ripe, they are sweet and juicy and are eaten plain or used in desserts and savoury dishes. Both green and ripe mangos can be dried.

How to choose: ripe mangos should be unbruised, fragrant and slightly soft when pressed. Ripe fruits sometimes have small black specks on the skin, which is acceptable, but avoid those with big dark spots. Green mangos should be firm.

What else? All varieties have a long, flat, wide seed. To remove it, lay the mango on one of its flatter sides and use a sharp knife to cut it parallel to the cutting board, slightly above the centre of the fruit. When you come to the seed, follow its contour closely with the knife, cutting through to the other side. Turn the mango over and repeat the process. You'll end up with three pieces - two ovals of fruit (still in the skin) and one flat piece with the seed. Use a large, flat spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin.

How to use: to make Thai green mango salad, remove the skin and cut the flesh into long, thin strips. Pound the flesh in a mortar and add it to a mixture of fish sauce, fresh lime juice, sugar, dried shrimp, fresh chillies, shallots and garlic. More or less the same ingredients are used to make a tangy sauce for fried fish and other seafood (see recipe, left).

Fresh mango is wonderful plain but can also be made into sorbets, diced and used in fruit salads, sliced and arranged on top of a fruit tart, pureed with other ingredients for lassis, shakes and smoothies, or made into a dessert sauce.