stuffed mangos

In the Coal Region, and in some other regions in the U.S., a green bell pepper is referred to as a “mango.“ I grew up in Schuylkill County hearing this term, not realizing that there was a fruit that bore the same moniker until I was well past childhood. Now, I understand that the real mango is a tropical fruit indigenous to Southeast Asia and India (and I love them!)

Manold coal region recipes call for ‘mangoes’ when really meaning green peppers.  There are many Amish cookbooks that also use the term ‘stuffed mangoes.’  And, in many areas, up until not so long ago, supermarkets, especially local Mom- and Pop-style stores, labelled green peppers as mangoes. To this day “older folks” (NOT passing judgement, I count myself in that age group!) in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois. and Missouri still call green bell peppers mangoes.  

A theory especially interesting to me is that some think that this term originated with coal miners in eastern Pennsylvania in the 1870s. The Pennsylvania Board of Agriculture referred to them as mango peppers in 1879, and the Ohio Board of Agriculture referred to them the same in their 1896 annual report.

So, why would anyone really call a green pepper a “mango?” The answer may lie in an article published in the New York Times that claimed the real reason had to do with food preservation in colonial times.  When mangoes were first imported to the American colonies in the 1600s, they had to be pickled, because of lack of refrigeration.  Other foods also had to be pickled, and came to be known as ‘mangoes,’ especially green peppers. People mistook the term mango as the process, rather than the food they were getting.  

By way of English cookbooks printed in America, the recipe for stuffed mangoes using peppers spread across the U.S. especially in areas with German or Amish ties. As time passed, even un-stuffed peppers continued to be called mangoes.

One of the most popular “stuffed mangoes” which is true to the food’s origins was created by stuffing a bell pepper with spiced cabbage and pickling them (that just screams Pa. Dutch/German to me!). I will post that recipe at another time.

This recipe is the one I have made forever and is what many people traditionally think of as “stuffed peppers/stuffed mangoes” here in The Coal Region. I like to cut my peppers in half, forming “boats” rather than just removing the tops to form deep “cups.” I also par cook then drain the peppers/mangoes before stuffing and baking which helps them cook through while baking. Sometimes I top them with a little cheese, other times I do not – depends on my mood and what I have in the deli drawer at the time.

I like to mix half sweet Italian sausage with half the beef for more intense flavor in the filling. You can simply use all beef if you prefer.

Another short-cut I often take is to use the ready-to-eat rice in a bag and skip the step of cooking rice. I like green peppers for this, I believe they compliment the meat and sauce, but if you like red, orange, or yellow and their sweeter, milder taste, go ahead and use them. Make this recipe yours!

Read the whole article and find the recipe on A Coalcraker in the Kitchen