I can’t remember exactly who first showed me a fresh-cut mango flower, I remember only the giddiness and wonder of watching it unexpectedly bloom before my eyes. It’s one of my favorite little-girl memories, so naturally, one of my favorite things to pass on to the little girls in my life.
As I was putting together our fresh mango salsa at my friend Melissa’s last week (recipe coming soon!), I caught her 3-year-old Kaelynn watching me score the fruit from the corner of my eye. “Have you ever seen a mango flower bloom?” I asked her.
That look, as the petals pop out of nowhere—it’s priceless. Especially among the unsuspecting and easily entertained.
This nifty trick, also called the “hedgehog” method, is a lifesaver when it comes to cleaning a fresh mango, and as an added bonus looks way too pretty and fancy to be as easy as it is. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Sit your mango on its big end (stem-up), narrow side facing you, so that you’re looking at its profile rather than head-on. The flat seed is in the center, running vertically, its narrow side also facing you.
Step 2: What we want to do is cut the mango flesh away from the seed on either side, carefully sliding the knife down along the flat side of the seed as we cut. Using a sharp knife, gently make a vertical cut into the top of the mango slightly to one side of the stem and feel where the seed is. Then, guide your knife to its edge just until you can easily slice through the fruit. Reposition and hold your mango carefully, and repeat on the other side. You can also lay the mango flat and cut the other half away horizontally.
Step 3: Hold one half of the mango skin-side down in your non-dominant hand, and use a paring or other small knife to make a checkerboard of horizontal and vertical cuts in the fruit without slicing through the skin. For big chunks, put lots of space between cuts. For a dice (like we’ll use in our salsa), make them closer together.
Step 4: Ready for the fun part? Gently push upward on the skin side of the fruit. As it turns inside-out, the chunks of sliced mango will fan out like petals on a flower. Or arms on an anemone. Or spines on a hedgehog. Or something else awesome-looking.
Step 5: Once you’re done oooing and ahhing and admiring its loveliness, use the small knife to cut the pieces of fruit away from the skin at their base and chop or use to your liking.
Step 6: Once you’ve cut up both halves of fruit, go back to the seed—there’s often lots of fruit still there. Cut the skin away from the edges of the round, flat disc and then slice away the flesh along the same edge. Or, if it’s just you enjoying your mango, you can bite the fruit right off the skin and seed.
Important Note About Fresh Mango!
The sap and skin of mangoes contain urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy and poison sumac. Just like these plants, it irritates different people to different degrees, anywhere from not at all to drastically so. Be careful handling and eating fresh mango, especially if you’ve never done so and/or if you’re sensitive to poison ivy.
I’ve always slurped those chunks of fresh fruit right off of the skin, and most of the time can’t help pulling more of it right off the seed with my teeth. But I always pay for it later. I get sort of a mild reaction that is usually just a scaly feeling on my lips, but once escalated to full-out, just-got-botched-Botox swollen for a few hours.
Some people (luckies!) can gnaw on the seed with full abandon, without so much as an itch. In fact it’s often mango-lovers’ very favorite part about eating the fruit fresh. Find out how you react before you dive in.