What you see: A brown, possibly purplish color throughout your mango’s flesh
What it is: Deteriorating mango flesh
Eat or toss: Toss! This mango will not taste good
You can eat a mango with discoloration like this, but you may not want to. Here’s the story.
This mango was most likely a victim of a too-hot hot water bath.
What, you might ask, was a mango doing taking a bath? Well, before any mango makes it to the U.S., it must undergo such a hot soak, the better to kill any buggy hitchhikers that could be bad news if they landed in the U.S.
Most mangos make it through the 90-minute bath, which I like to call the Fruit Fly Prevention Spa, just fine. (Check out what “the spa” looks like at the bottom of this post!) But something went awry with this mango and the 115-degree Fahrenheit water damaged its tissue, inhibiting key enzymes and causing its cell membranes to leak compounds that prompted it to, among other things, discolor and eventually rot.
In that hot water bath, the mango may have been particularly close to the heat source. Or, it may have accidentally been left behind in the pool (and who doesn’t want just a little more time in a hot bath?). In any event, circumstances cooked it hotter than planned and the fruit was damaged beyond repair. While it looked fine from the outside, its innards were deteriorating during the days or possibly weeks it spent in transit from the packing house to the store.
The reaction that caused the discoloration is similar to what you see when sliced apples turn brown. In both cases, cell membranes lose their tight seal and leak chemicals that react with oxygen to form dark colors. But, in the apple, the disruption comes from your knife breaking open cells—the fruit overall is still healthy. In the case of this mango, however, heat from the hot water bath spread throughout the fruit, causing cells to weaken. The only thing that slowed this mango’s demise was refrigeration it may have experienced on the way to the store. While too-cold air can further damage a mango, the right amount of chilling makes everything, including tissue deterioration, go slower. But not even perfectly chilled air could reverse this situation.
To be fair to the Fruit Fly Prevention Spa, there are other circumstances that could have caused this mango’s demise. Storing the tropical fruit in a too-cold environment could have also damaged the cells. A nutritional problem could have led to the discoloration as well.
This mango isn’t unsafe to eat; it just won’t taste good. Jeffrey Brecht, postharvest plant physiologist at the University of Florida, offers this succinct advice: “That would be a toss.”