On a walk with my dad last week, we noticed dozens of bright red lychees scattered across the sidewalk. They weren't someone's spilled snack. Looking up, we were surprised to find a tree heavy with fruit. I was stunned. Lychees—who knew? Although most of them were split open and roasting in the sun, the jaded New Yorker in me did a mental calculation of how much lychees cost per pound in the grocery store. In Florida, they are a tropical feast for the ants.
And it's the same with avocados, bananas, starfruit, citrus, herbs—everything is overgrown from the constant rain. Coupled with the stupefying heat, Florida summers are lush and heady.
I've written before about the neverending bounty of mangoes in my parents' house, and this summer is no exception. I came home to find dozens ripening on the kitchen windowsill and in baskets, my parents clearly losing their taste for them by the day. You can only puree and freeze so many batches. But it feels wrong to waste mangoes, even though in almost every South Florida backyard there are piles of rotten fruit left by people who are overwhelmed by their overproductive trees.
Always enterprising, Mom Googled a recipe for mango ketchup after reading about it in a magazine. I had my doubts—it didn't contain tomatoes or tomato paste, so would it really taste like ketchup? But we had nothing but time and mangoes on our hands, so we tried it.
After adding some spices to mango puree and simmering the mixture until it cooked down, the sauce became sweet and fragrant, like a fruity barbecue sauce. Not quite a ketchup in my book, but a tasty condiment all the same. And because it was made in Florida, it was essentially free.
This sauce, adapted from Allen Susser from Chef Allen's restaurant, is sweet and spicy, much like a fruity barbecue sauce. You can serve it on burgers, like we did, but chicken, pork chops, and lamb would also work really well.(Makes about 3 cups)
4 medium mangoes, pitted, peeled, and chopped
2 oz. white wine vinegar1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar1/2 cup white or rose wine
1/2 tsp. allspice1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or chipotle powder
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Puree the mangoes in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add all other ingredients and puree until combined. In a heavy saucepan over low heat, cook the mixture until reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat and cool. Strain the mixture through a sieve. Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld.