HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Mango vs bell pepper

  • n

I grew up in the mid-west. Green bell peppers were always called mangos. Does anyone know why? I have a collection of vintage cookbooks and there are many recipes that call for mangos...meaning green peppers. Hmm. Thoughts?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. http://www.word-detective.com/2009/04...


    Interesting. I must say I've never before heard this.
    "For those not familiar with this oddity, it is not unusual for a grocery store to advertise mangos for sale and find green peppers beneath that sign. The origin of the confusion began in the 1600’s when the first mangos were imported from the East Indies. The mango fruit needed to be pickled for transport because of the length of the journey.

    This is where the confusion starts. The American colonists began to use the word “mango” as a general synonym for “pickled dish”. From then on mango became a verb meaning “to pickle”.

    The most popular food to pickle at the time was a green bell pepper stuffed with cabbage. It became so popular that even unstuffed and unpickled the bell pepper was known as a mango."

    1. My maternal grandmother (northern Indiana) called them mangoes for years -- I've never heard it anywhere outside the Midwest.

      1 Reply
      1. Being from the South East I've never heard of this until now.

        But to add to the confusion, my Caribbean wife calls bananas "figs". That'll raise an eyebrow or two.

        1. Raised in KY, and bell peppers were called mangoes. When I married Mr.Pine, an Indian, he was so excited when Mom said something about mangoes for dinner (this was before true mangoes were so widely available). Was he ever disappointed when dinner was stuffed bell peppers.

          2 Replies
            1. re: pine time

              I agree with sunshine. This is indeed very cruel -- especially he is an Indian.

            2. if i'm not mistaken there is "confusion" between Mango's and Avocado in some areas as well. I think this person was from the great lakes region, but im not certain. she bought a bunch of green mango and was shocked when the skin turned red and the flesh turned orange and could not be turned into guacamole

              1 Reply
              1. re: KaimukiMan


                I don't think you call that confusion.

              2. Ahah! I have a recipe for pot roast that includes a green mango. I thought it was a little odd, and perhaps this explains it! (I made the recipe once -- using a green mango rather than a green pepper -- and it was fine... the mango flesh disintegrated and essentially became a thickener for the sauce.)

                1. I absolutely didn't know this. Considering the two have different taste and different usage, I am surprised that they shared the same name.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    It used to be a common, albeit incorrect, synonym in the Cincinnati/no. Ky/Indiana area, but I have no idea why. Maybe it's changed over the years as more Indians and other ethnicities have moved into the area?

                  2. I grew up in Indiana, and my grandparents called bell peppers mangoes. I found it very confusing when I was older and learned that there was a fruit mango, but it is easy enough to get it straight nowadays. If you are using a recipe from the pre-1970s Midwest, mangoes are peppers; otherwise, mangoes are mangoes.

                    Back in the day, we just didn't get the amazing variety of fruits and vegetables (let alone spices) that you find at every megamart nowadays. The selection was more like a farmers market, and was pretty sad in the winter (California lettuce, carrots, and some cabbage, maybe, was the extent of the affordable veggies, and the overpriced picking were pretty slim, too.).

                    Since we never saw mangoes, we were not at all confused when people chose to apply that name to green peppers.

                    The only explanation I ever found is the one from VTB, above. It sounds plausible to me.

                    We also eat "mushmelons" around here. I'll bet NJP can tell you that is a cantaloupe.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: DebinIndiana

                      By the way, the term mushmelons derived from a mispronunciation of muskmelons. Cantaloupe are a variety of muskmelon. Some others are Honeydew, Crenshaw, Casaba, Persian, and Santa Claus.

                      (Note: I should read a whole thread before answering. Others beat me to it.)

                    2. I grew up in the Midwest too including a stint in Indy and 4 years at iU but i never heard of this. Weird .

                      Mushmelon I've heard of

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        You may be younger than I am? or maybe did not spend time with your old people. It was very common nomenclature with my grandparents' generation (born around 1900).

                        1. re: DebinIndiana

                          Hey, I'm not quite that old (yet), and I recall mushmelon for cantaloupe. This was in the 1960s in Kentucky and Tennessee. Mango for bell peppers was still used through the mid-1970s in my parent's household.

                          1. re: pine time

                            What most of us call a cantaloupe is more correctly called a muskmelon (not mush). A true cantaloupe is completely different and not grown here. Kind of like yam vs sweet potato.

                            1. re: cantkick

                              I understand what you are saying, but at least the European and American "cantaloupes" are varieties of the same species (Cucumis melo). On the other hand, sweet potatoes and yams are not even the same genus (Dioscorea vs. Ipomoea). I've never seen a yam in the USA (I grew up in Africa where yams are common, so yams are familiar). In the USA, soft varieties of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea) are referred to as "yams" -- to differentiate them from firm varieties (also Ipomoea) that are referred to as "sweet potatoes".

                              1. re: drongo

                                What are Ipomoea called in Africa? Probably varies by language.

                                I've read that use of 'yam' for Ipomoea has its roots in Africa (and slaves in America), due to its similarity to the more familiar Dioscorea.

                                "In certain parts of the world, sweet potatoes are locally known by other names, including: camote, kamote, goguma, man thet, ubi jalar, ubi keledek, shakarkand, satsuma imo, batata or boniato." (Wiki article)

                                In Asian groceries that I shop at it is common to see 4 varieties of 'yam' (Ipomoea) - white, red, Japanese, purple (Okinawa). They ignore the orange/white, soft/hard distinctions that one sees in regular American groceries.

                                The English word potato comes from Spanish patata .... a compound of the Taino batata (sweet potato) and the Quechua papa (potato). The name potato originally referred to a type of sweet potato rather than the other way around.... The English confused the two plants one for the other.....Potatoes are occasionally referred to as "Irish potatoes" or "white potatoes" in the United States, to distinguish them from sweet potatoes. (Wiki Potato)

                                1. re: paulj

                                  Ipomoea? As in The Girl from Ipomoea?
                                  I think I have heard of that.

                              2. re: cantkick

                                I knew about the muskmelon term, but it was still called "mushmelon" where I grew up--which actually delayed me even tasting it for years--who wants a mushy melon?

                                1. re: pine time

                                  I don't want mushy melon -- but musky melon doesn't seem appealing either!

                                  1. re: drongo

                                    but a ripened-to-perfection cantaloupe definitely has a musky tone to the aroma

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Agreed -- cantaloupe are among the foods that catch you first by their smell. I always thought that the smell drove the name.

                            2. re: DebinIndiana

                              In in my early 50's.

                              My grands all lived in MPLS and two were Swedish immigrants who I'm pretty sure never ate a bell pepper or a mango. :-)

                          2. Raised in Ohio during the depression. Although my mother always took me to the grocery, I never saw any peppers called mangos, in fact I don't think I ever saw a real mango either. Certainly mom never bought one, although we often had stuffed peppers.

                            1. I grew up in Ohio and my grandmother said the same thing. I never understood how a green bell pepper became a mango, but I never bothered to ask.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Kelli2006

                                The first post by VTB actually has cited a couple reference for the historical reasons.