Today I walked into the kitchen with one of the mangoes that our landlord’s daughter in law picked from the tree in our yard yesterday. We have three mango trees, each bearing a slightly different type of fruit. One has small green mangoes that have sour, yellow flesh; one has large green ones that can be eaten “young” and crispy or “ripe” and soft; and one has perfect yellow mangoes with yellow flesh, the type you think of when you close your eyes and start imaging a mango. I’ve learned that there are hundreds of types of mangoes and right now it’s mango season. There are too many fruits than can be eaten. Plenty of them are left to rot. People bring me bags of mangoes from their trees. I offer bags of mangoes from ours.
The cutting board was leaning against the screen of the kitchen widow, drying. I took it and a knife to the counter and noticed some brown specs crawling around the white plastic edges. There are more than twice as many species of ants as there are types of mangoes and now that rainy season is coming back around, the ants are back with a vengeance.
I am constantly bushing ants off of me. If a hair lands on my arm or something tickles my leg, my first thought is “another ant.” We spray them with vinegar and water, with ant and cockroach spray, we wash them down the drain in the bathrooms and laundry room. We bought white bricks of ant poison that line our kitchen counters. We take out our trash twice a day. We moved every single food item that wasn’t sealed in plastic into the refrigerator. Then we moved the items sealed in plastic into the fridge just for good measure.
The mangoes from landlords’ daughter in law were just a day or two shy of perfect. You have to pick them at the exact right time. Too early and they never soften and too late they fall from the tree and splat on the ground. These mangoes would be perfect if they were set out on a counter for a day or to. But the ants. The wouldn’t ripen in the dark, cold fridge so we settled on putting them in a big bowl of water on the kitchen table. The rainy season brings the ants into the house. A plate full of water under the cat’s dish keeps the ants out of the kibble. We figured a small lake would keep them from our mangoes.
So when I took my mango from the bowl and saw a few six legged foes on the cutting board, I didn’t really bat an eye. A previous version of me might have washed said cutting board or at the very least rinsed it off. I simply ran my hand over it knocking the ants off and set out to cut the fruit.
I’ve learned there’s an art to cutting a ripe mango. Turn in on its edge so the pit runs from top to bottom with the majority of the flesh on the left and right. Cut as close to the pit as possible giving yourself two bigs hunks of fruit. Score these into half inch squares and turn the skin inside out to create perfect bite sized pieces. Remove the ring of skin from around the pit and use your teeth to take the remaining fruit from around the pit. Mango preparation isn’t for the faint of heart.
I’ve asked around. “Do you have a lot of ants in your house?” And “What are you doing about the ants?” The consensus is, “Yeah, we do.” And “Well, what can you do? It’s wet season.” I’ve gotten lackluster suggestions to keep on scrubbing and sweeping and spraying. But mostly I’ve gotten the recommendation to wait. This too will pass. It’s the season for mangoes. And with it comes the season for ants.