If you are from the midwest you probably know exactly where I am going with this post. If you are not, you will likely be shocked and amazed to discover that a large portion of people in the United States (primarily in the midwest) refer to green bell peppers as mangos!
Yes, you read that correctly and yes I was just as confused as you are when I first learned this interesting bit of trivia a few weeks ago.
I mean, a bell pepper and a mango have almost nothing in common so how could you even confuse the two?
Let me begin by telling you how I first uncovered this little gem and then I will see if I can shed some light on the confusion.
During the last week in May I was visiting my Mom in Virginia. We were browsing a local antique store when we came across two metal boxes containing someones old handwritten recipe cards. The recipe cards appeared to range from the mid 80’s to about 2008. These weren’t ancient cards but there was something interesting about looking at someone else’s handwritten recipe cards. For me; my recipes are a very important part of my life so looking at them made me feel a little voyeuristic or risqué. Mom and I decided to buy them and brought them home to sort through.
There were some good looking recipes (Swedish Apple Pie), some familiar recipes (Broccoli Casserole) and even some really odd recipes (Sauerkraut Cake). But it wasn’t until I came across this recipe for Chicken Supreme that I became utterly confused.
The third ingredient listed in the recipe is 3 Tbsp. of chopped mango. Not only that, but the recipe tells you to saute the “mango” with onions and celery and add mushroom soup to it! EWWWWW! I read and reread the recipe and could not make any sense of why or HOW mango would make any sense in this recipe. Completely lost I showed the recipe to my mom.
She laughed and said, “Just last week one of my friends said something to me about some people calling green bell peppers mangos so I bet it really means bell peppers!”
Me, “Surely not!”
Well we did what normal people do when they don’t know something. We Googled it!
Low and behold, it’s true! Many people in the midwest refer to green bell peppers as mangos. But why? And do they know there is a difference between bell peppers and mangos? When they go to the grocery store and ask the clerk where to find the mangos are they taken to the pepper display? There were so many unanswered questions so we delved even deeper into Google! Here are our findings:
Who calls Green Bell Peppers Mangos?
Primarily older people from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.
Where did this originate?
It seems to have originated in the 1870’s with coal miners in eastern Pennsylvania.
What is a mango?
It is a fruit that is indigenous to Southeast Asia and India.
What is a green pepper?
Although technically a fruit it is most commonly referred to as a vegetable and is indigenous to Mexico, Central American and northern South America. It was named after the “peppercorn” by Christopher Columbus. The peppercorn was a newly popular spice in Europe and many things with a spicy flavor were generically referred to as peppers.
So why was the green pepper called a mango?
Apparently, when mangos were first important to the American Colonies they were sent in pickled form because the long oversea journey prevented them from being able to arrive fresh. At some point linguistic confusion caused the americans to believe that the word “mango” referred to the pickling process rather than the fruit they had received. It became commonplace to refer to something that had been pickled as a mango. Many popular dishes at the time were pickled and one of the most popular “mangos” included a bell pepper that was stuffed with cabbage and then pickled. Apparently the name stuck and many people still refer to the bell pepper as a mango.
Well, there you have it. We now know the reason why but I can’t say I am really any closer to understanding the whole mango vs. bell pepper debate! A mango is a mango and a pepper is a pepper!
What do you think? Where are you from and what to they call bell peppers where you live?