Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mangos in moderation

I’m not sure this really this qualifies as a locally acquired taste since there is evidence of my appreciation of mangoes prior to arriving in Ghana.

Here I am somewhere in Australia delighting in mango ice-cream next to the world’s largest mango. Oooh that was good.

Even before that though, I was making a concoction I called mango salsa. It included (duh) mango, red and green pepper, cilantro, onion and a liberal dash of tequila. Batches varied wildly from what might be described as “a nice balance” to “who put the mango in my tequila?” Perhaps not always intended for the kiddies, but it was generally a hit at the office.

Fast forward a few years when my office setting did not quite allow for mid-day communal munching. Trader Joes filled the void with pre-packaged, sliced, dried and very sweet mango chunks. A few of these babies could send my blood sugar sky rocketing. They made (and still are) a great mid-ride treat when legs are flagging.

Ok, now onto Ghana – a country up to its ears in tropical fruits – pineapples, coconuts, papaya, oranges, bananas, plantains and, of course, mangoes. At least two varieties of mangoes even. Big juicy mangos are my favourite. Apparently they are not native to West Africa, but do well enough economically. The smaller, stringier variety is native, I’m told, but is really not worth all the teeth cleaning effort involved to really enjoy it. So…

Almost every outing included at least a quick glance at the road side fruit-n-veggie stands to check supplies. Sometimes they were perfect to be eaten now. Others needed to wait a day or two to ripen. I’m still not sure how to tell the difference. There was usually room in my bag for a mango or two.



Mixed with yogurt, ice, milk and other fruit.

Always a mess to prepare.

Unfortunately, after several months of eating mangoes, I seemed to develop some sort of allergy. Not right away as would be ideal. No, I would continue to eat plate after plate of mango. A few days later my lips would become almost chapped lasting for two weeks. I will spare you the pictures. We weren’t certain if the allergy was caused by ingesting too many mangoes, or handling the sappy ones right from the tree. At least twice this happened – the last being in May 2007. It was pretty frustrating, but I swore off mangos for a while.

Now March 2008, and it appears that I still have a slight allergy. This only after SJD carefully did all the washing and slicing. All I did was admire the bright color and have one little bite. Mmmmm…so good, but so bad too.

Now, I'm afraid that mangos are just out to get me. There are a number of fruit bearing trees on my project site - including mangos. Most of the fruit has been picked by passersby for personal consumption or perhaps resale at the tro-tro stop. It is just the way things work around here.
The project site gate keeper swings open the gate in the morning when I arrive for work on my bike. The larges mango tree is litterally a few feet beyond the gate. A few months ago during prime growing season, the branches were hanging quite low full of fruit. Only after riding head on into a low hanging mango a couple dozen times, the mangoes disappeared.

A coworker still, every now and then, surprises me with a plate of freshly cut fruit. Mostly pineapple, papaya or bananas now. And not just one banana either. Sometimes as many as five of the tiny variety.


Anonymous said...

hi...just wanted to let you know that the mango is related to poison ivy. don't touch the skin! i have the same allergy, but i can eat the flesh if someone peels the skin for me. good luck!! sharon

Brian said...

Hmmm...I have even worse reactions to poison ivy. Luckly Ghana does not seem to have an PI that I can tell.

Anonymous said...

yup, i'm the same way...apparently it's called mango mouth and affects a lot of people-more with fresh mangoes than ones that have been sitting at the grocery store for a week. has to do with the sap in the skin...if someone peels them for me and i eat without getting the juice on my lips, i'm good to go. discovered this after a painful experience in mozambique.

question: i'm arriving in ghana in january to study at the university in your opinion is it worth it for me to get a bike to go back and forth between the campus and accra? i have one here (d.c.) for school, work, etc. it's a hybrid, and had a mountain bike when living in durban in south africa. just wondering about roads, safety for a lone female rider, bike shops in accra, etc. thanks a million!

Brian said...

Hmmm...I've heard the same regarding the mango sap. Maybe I'll give them another try, eventhough we're back in the US and the price seem astronomical. There was something nice about being able to buy them on the side of the road.

Biking between Accra and Legon. It is certainly possible, but the traffic can be a bit dicey. When we left back in August, the main north/south road was being widened. It did have a wide enough shoulder to bike safely, but the tro-tros and taxis would use it for passing and drop-offs without signaling. There is another route through Airport Residential and the fringe of the Achimota Forest. Paved roads turn to dirt once you cross the Tema Motorway, but it avoids lots of traffic and eventually pops out at the back side of Legon. Where in Accra will you be riding from?

If you already have a bike and don't mind the cost of getting it there - take it. There are plenty of decent used bikes available road side for less than $60. Try north of Nkrumah Circle in Accra, or north of Legon near Atomic Junction. A hybrid or mtb should be perfect.

Lone female biker? You'd be one of few (it seemed) women on a bike around Accra but it shouldn't stop you from doing it. My wife rode solo quite a bit without any more than the non-stop "obroni" remarks. I never felt uncomfortable on my own miles from home.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Have a great time.