Green pepper mango

Just before dinner this evening I mentioned a phenomena in the Midwest that I've found pretty entertaining. With the exception of my brother, no one at the table had really heard of it, but for us it was only second hand. Karla has told us that on many occasions when she was in high school and working at Subway she heard the word mango or mangoes for what she would consider, a green pepper. As in, "don't put any mangos on it", or "gimme more mangoes." My dad once told me about some neighbors we had who ate Vidalia onions like apples, and I think they also called 'em mangos. Well, I decided I had to do a little research and found this cultural definition or some such from the Dictionary of American Regional English, Harvard University Press, which seems excellent.

2 also mango pepper; pronc-sp mangle: A pepper, esp a green pepper 1. chiefly W Midl See Map1948 WELS Suppl. VA, I was surprised while living in Virginia to see green peppers advertised and sold as " mangoes. 1950 WELS (Large sweet peppers) 2 Infs, WI, Mangoes. c1960 Wilson Coll. csKY, Mango. . . Sweet pepper, bell-pepper. 1964 Gourmet May 2, [Letter:] The use of the term mango for bell pepper . . is not limited to Indiana. I have heard it used in Louisiana and Georgia. We once had an old English gardener up in Vermont many years ago, and he always called the green pepper a mango. Bird and chili peppers are also referred to as mangoes. 1965- 70 DARE (Qu. I22d, . . Peppers—large sweet) 113 Infs, chiefly W Midl, esp sIL, sIN, sOH, Mangoes; IN41, 48, Sweet mangoes; MO39, Mango peppers; MO5, MO27, Mangles; MO4, Tomato peppers—also called the little mangle peppers; (Qu. I22c, . . Peppers—small sweet) 15 Infs, chiefly N Midl, Mangoes; IL85, Small mangoes; OK3, Mango peppers; (Qu. I22b, . . Peppers—large hot) Infs IN76, KS1, PA150, Mangoes; MO6, Mangoes—not so hot nor so small; KS6, KY52, VA28, Mango peppers; IN41, 48, Hot mangoes; (Qu. I22a, . . Peppers—small hot) Infs IL7, MO18, Mango peppers; NJ2, Mangoes. 1970 DARE File KY, sOH, Mango—bell pepper. 1972 NYT Article Letters cnIN, In my home area, green (bell) peppers are called mangos.
Then I found this article from the well named, "Food Resource Website". It's considerably more readable.

The word ‘mango’ is used in some areas to refer to green peppers or stuffed green peppers. Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri are all states that I have received e-mails about grandparents, parents and even current usage of ‘mango’ for green pepper.
Recent information I have come across (thanks in part to an e-mail from website visitor Richard Clark) I believe explains how and why the usage of the word spread along the path it did. Usage of 'mango' for green peppers seems to have originated with coal miners in eastern Pennsylvania (1870s +) - and spread with the mining industries, and then with the miners families as they migrated to new areas and found new jobs.
But why the word 'mango' for green peppers? Many of these coal miners were of Eastern European origin, and it has been suggested that the word may have a Slovak origin.
The English 'dialect' of the Appalachian region with its unique pronunciation, grammar, and word usage is due in large part to the immigration of miners, engineers and others from so many countries coming together in one area and being relatively isolated in the small mining towns.
They came from Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany, Scotland, Wales, Greece, Turkey, and Syria to name a few - so the word 'mango' might have been adapted from one of these languages.
Also, in many old cookbooks, 'mango' would sometimes be used to refer to a pickle, especially of melons or cucumber (resembling pickled green mango?)
'Mango' was also a term sometimes used to refer to cantaloupe in many old cookbooks).
So the question is, are there words in any Eastern European languages for melon and/or green peppers that may sound like ‘mango’?
Chef James

In the 1887 Edition of 'The Original White House Cook Book', there is a
recipe for Green Pepper Mangoes.
As follows:
“Select firm, sound, green peppers, and add a few red ones,as they are ornamental and look well upon the table. With a sharp knife remove the top, take out the seed, soak over night in salt water, then fill with chopped cabbage and green tomatoes, seasoned with salt, mustard seed and ground cloves. Sew on the top. Boil vinegar sufficient to cover them, with a cup of brown sugar, and pour over the mangoes. Do this three mornings, then seal.” That is the only recipe I have seen. J.M.

This would fit in with the use of ‘mango’ to refer to a pickle (mentioned above) and also brings in the use of Green Peppers.
Anyone with additional information about ‘mango’ green peppers, please E-mail me: ChefJames@FoodReference.com
I will add any new information here as I receive it. Chef James

My cousin sent me (the Mango article) and I thought I would respond to the question about "mango" in Slavic languages. Our family originally is from northeastern Pennsylvania and my grandmother used "mango" for "green pepper." We've never been sure why. I can say that at least in Polish, Czech, Slovak and Serbo-Croatian, the word for pepper is some variation on "paprika." Slavic languages have tended to adopt the word "mango," for the mango fruit since historically it has been a non-native, uncommon fruit. In other words, the search for the origin of the use of "mango" continues.
Maybe the hypothesis about chutney is more helpful here. Since mango chutney is a fairly common type of chutney, perhaps it got shortened to "mango" in reference to all things similarly pickled. In addition to people of Eastern European background, late 19th cent. Pennsylvania also had high numbers of immigrants from the British Isles, who may have been familiar with such chutneys. One might think that "chutney" would have been the more logical adoption, but if neither mango nor chutney had any inherent meaning for a speaker of another language, it's reasonable to think that such a mistake could occur. Just a guess. By the way, in case you're wondering, the word for "pickle" in Slavic languages is nothing like "mango" either.
Hope this helps,


Joe said...

I wonder if they use "mango" for red peppers too or just for the green ones?

Many of us who have connections to this blog have experience in the grocery store industry...I'm trying to remember other strange produce-related vocabulary...

Is there a difference between chives and green onions? In England, "salad" refers to putting lettuce on your sandwich...a difference that tripped me up more than once when I lived there. You know, I really don't eat much produce...I can't think of anything interesting to say.

Andrew said...

Here's another usage