One of the many joys of living in a tropical country is the easy access to home-grown and local tropical fruits. Mangos have always been a favourite, since I was a child in Africa. With the usual childhood lack of airs and graces about eating tidily, I can remember many a time sat at the kitchen table with juice running down my face and arms as I sucked the remaining fruit from the stone inside. Our little girl is already a massive mango fan, so I know I’ll be seeing her do the same when she is a bit bigger.
I was thinking about an entry for Ailsa’s ‘fresh’ travel theme, and I thought of food instantly. And what better than fresh mango? We are now at the start of the mango season here in Brunei, which makes me very, very happy. I know, simple pleasures! So I have spent the past few weeks walking round the garden with my little girl in my arms, inspecting the ripening fruit hanging enticingly on the mango tree which reaches over our garden.
Friends would come round and exclaim at the number of mangos on the tree, commenting that I was going to be in for a bumper crop. Initially I was very British about it. The tree is not actually in our garden, it just overhangs it. Surely that makes it someone else’s property? It wouldn’t be right for me to take the fruit, would it? Would I cause offence or get in trouble for that?
With Sharia law now in place here in Brunei and some uncertainty about what that really means for expats, I certainly was not willing to risk a severe penalty for something as stupid as a couple of mangos!! But then something utterly un-British happened which made me rethink my perspective.
Random people started walking into my garden to check out the mangos for themselves. People I had never met. Uninvited. Strolling calmly into my garden. Clearly this is normal behaviour here because if I happened to be around when they did it, they’d just wave, smile and carry on. I was dumb-founded. Should I be irritated or amused? It certainly would never happen in England! But then it dawned on me. If the locals thought it was totally fine for them to wander in and stake a claim on the mangos, then that must surely mean we could take some too!
The only problem was that if we’d left it until the mangos were actually ripe on the tree….well…there would be no mangos left to pick! To ensure they don’t miss out, the local people take them from the tree early and then fully ripen them indoors, wrapped in newspaper. People have been turning up with a bizarre assortment of homespun mango picking equipment to harvest the fruit from the higher branches. Big sticks, poles with handles, fishing nets…all sorts. It has made for quite entertaining viewing watching people trying to harvest the mangos, whilst dealing with the shower of aggressive large red ants which shower down on them from the tree branches along with the fruit!
We have a lovely lady who helps us with the house, and she has been harvesting and ripening a few of the mangos for us, as well as some for herself. And they have been utterly delicious. The variety is a South East Asian one. Locally they are called ‘Philippines mangos’ although I think they grow widely across South East Asia. They are soft and sweet, and nothing like the more tart and fibrous large mangos found in supermarkets in the UK.
We only had a handful of fruit from our own tree, but it really is true that nothing beats local produce. I am hoping to pick up a few more mangos at the food market this weekend, making the most of the seasonal bounty whilst it lasts. And now we know the way it works we’ll be more prepared for the harvesting frenzy next year!