The Mango Highway

Mangos are a national pastime in St Lucia. Even the shape of the very island resembles a mango. Each village passionately claims they grow the best mango and that every man, women and child has their own favorite. Saint Lucians hold the mango in reverence as if it where the key to the universe. I can tell by the way I see them holding the mango before they devour one.

Upon my landing on the southern tip of this mango island I was immediately taken by its beauty. As I drove along the Caribbean coast on what I would call the “mango highway” from Vieux Fort to Soufriere my excitement grew. Admittedly not every newcomer notices all the beauty and variety along the roadside. But one can’t help but see this rainbow of mango skins including purple, red, green, and yellow orbs hanging from the branches and dark evergreen leaves.  Yes each is a different variety of mango – there must be over 30 varieties on St Lucia.

I could tell that the native St Lucians know where each roadside planting, grove and wild tree was to be found. As we wound through these mango hills thick with mangos but also breadfruit, coconut, and banana, I realized that St Lucia offers up a culinary bounty like no other in the Caribbean. The warm breezes from the rain forest brought luscious scents of mango for all to enjoy.

It is interesting to note that both the French and British Empires ruled St Lucia. Each had a long lasting effect on the varieties of mangos growing on the island. The British brought in the Graham , Bombay and Julie, as well as other selections from India. The French planted Mango Blanc, Mango Long,  and Mango Woz from their colonies in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Other local mango varieties include the Madame with hints of anise, cinnamon, caramel and fig,  Mango Go-Fam, Mango Palwee, and Mango Cocobef . My favorite is the Julie. Probably one the best and sweetest tasting Mangos that I have ever tasted came from a very old Julie tree on the Anse Mamin plantation. That Julie mango, had a deep floral aroma with a pleasurable balance of pineapple and peach taste with notes of candied orange peel. I can’t wait to bite into another mango season in St Lucia.

Chef Allen SusserJames Beard Award winner Allen Susser  is the consulting chef at Jade Mountain, St. Lucia’s  most unique resort, which was named one of the Top Three Hotels worldwide by Travel & Leisure Magazine. Also, Allen Susser is the author of The Great Mango Book and the definite authority on this remarkable fruit. Once a year, Jade Mountain and Chef Allen Susser host their Mango Madness festival. This year’s Mango Madness takes place from June 11-15.

Allen Susser personal culinary viewpoint has been established since 1986 upon opening his groundbreaking Miami restaurant Chef Allen’s. The New York Times called Allen the “Ponce De Leon of New Florida cooking”. Chef Allen’s New World Cuisine is fresh and flavorful, like a tropical vacation on a plate. His vision of what the future holds is a culinary fusion of cultures that share similar landscapes, tropical ingredients and diverse spices.

Allen is currently the spokesman for the National Mango Board, and serves as President of the Miami, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. He is a prestigious James Beard Award winner and received an honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University. Allen was Chef of the Year for Share Our Strength for his community involvement to End Childhood Hunger, as well as currently active on the Board of the Daily Bread Food Bank.

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