Summer brings the sweetest fruits, and if you know me, you know that the mango is the Holy Grail. The sweet and tangy fruits are just as good of a dessert as they are an athletic recovery food. For many years in the sport of swimming, a favorite after practice recovery snack was dried mangos. The natural sugars boost your glycogen stores, giving you fast acting recovery to the most readily used energy source in the body. What I had never done, until last week, was pick mangos straight from the tree. Luckily a much-needed vacation gave me the opportunity I was waiting for.
After a grueling year of school, I was ready for a reprieve. My wife and joined our families down in the Virgin Islands for a week of R&R. Upon arrival to the house we booked on the little island of Jost Van Dyke, we had freshly picked bananas waiting for us, that had been picked from a tree ten feet away from the kitchen. The bananas literally tasted like banana pudding, I had never had a banana so sweet, or so fresh. When I walked outside I noticed the two huge mango trees that sat right under our house.
As you might imagine, I went ape for the mangoes. Every day I picked fresh fruits straight from the tree. About 50 feet down from the two big mango trees were several smaller trees that held mangos about the size of a tennis ball, which were much more tart and acidic, but still a delightful treat. I kept thinking to myself, “why don’t I have a grove of fruit trees at my house?!” There is truly no comparison or substitute for foods that you pick immediately from the source.
Speaking of eating from the source, we ate fish straight from the sea! The Island of Jost Van Dyke is tiny. 192 people populate the speck of land, and the fishing we did was nothing like you’d see in movies. Out we went on a tiny little boat with makeshift equipment. A few hours later we approached the dock with Kingfish, Mackerel, and Barracuda, in hand. We fished in 90 to 120 feet of water, with live baitfish called Spack. Our fisherman, Dave, cleaned the fish right on the wooden dock, and sent us on our way to cook a feast. Upon catching the Barracuda we asked him, “do people eat Barracuda?” He looked at us like we were crazy and said, “of course, it’s great!” He was right, albeit the Barracuda was a bit tougher; the flavor was still sweet and a little briny. What took the tough consistency away was when my Dad decided to cut the large filets into smaller medallions of about two inches by two inches.
We ate those fish for three meals. On the second day I was thinking, “this is a day old and it’s still more fresh than anything I could ever buy in Austin!
The brilliance we experienced eating straight from the land and sea makes me miss the islands already. The flavor was of no comparison; the nutrients were packed to the brim, literally seeping out of the mangoes as we picked them. Looks like I’ll just have to start a fruit grove in Austin!