Prior to going to Haiti for the first time in March 2010, I learned that I was allergic to mangos. (Mangos, along with cashews, pistachios and poisons ivy, oak and sumac, contain urushiol – an allergen that causes contact dermatitis.) So imagine the envy and disappointment I felt when I’d watch other volunteers and locals devour mangos on work sites, on base, at the beach…everywhere. Living in the land of mangos and not being able to partake was sheer torture.
Since I missed out while in Haiti, last month when Whole Foods announced that fair trade, francique mangos were available in its stores throughout the US, I decided that, allergy or not, I would support the cause and finally taste what’s described by many as one of the world’s best mango varieties.
After going to two different Whole Foods locations, I finally found the Haitian mangos nearly 25 miles from my home. They were priced at 2 for $5 – significantly more expensive than the champagne mangos from Mexico that were displayed nearby, and infinitely more expensive than you’d pay for a mango at the market or on a roadside stand in Haiti. Despite the high price, I picked out three ripe mangos and headed for the check out.
As soon as I got home, I peeled the skin back on one of the mangos and took my first bite. Oh my sweet, juicy deliciousness. I finally understood what all the fuss was about.
The next morning, my lips were slightly swollen and filled with small, itchy bumps. I took anti-histamines for three days to keep the itching at bay and reduce the swelling. A small price to pay, in my opinion.
When I make my way back to Haiti, hopefully mangos will still be in season so I can enjoy them straight from the tree. But until then, I’ll just buy more Haitian mangos from Whole Foods. And stock up on anti-histamines.
To learn more about fair trade, francique mangos and how purchasing them from Whole Foods helps improve the livelihoods of Haitian farmers (and therefore their families and their communities), check out this video.