It always starts with a little itch on my forearm. Scratch, scratch. Then my neck. Scratch, scratch. Before long I look like a dog with fleas. It happens every year during mango season: the dreaded Mango Rash.
Have you ever had poison ivy? It’s exactly the same thing. The oily organic compound found in poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak is called urushiol. Urushiol is also found in mango leaves, but it’s most concentrated in the sap that’s released from the stems. Mangos from the grocery store have very little of this sap left on them. But if you pick mangos, that terrible sap squirts out of the stem. It’s best to pick with a long-handled fruit picker. Otherwise, angle the mango away from you to pick it; don’t pull it toward you.
Here are a few other tips to lessen exposure: Wear long sleeves and gloves to pick them. Use Fels-Naptha, a laundry soap, to wash any area that may have touched sap. It cuts oily urushiol better than regular soap. If you want to carry some mangos home and you don’t have a bag, don’t carry them inside your shirt. I have two friends who have made that mistake.During high season, when my trees are loaded with ripe mangos and I’m baking, dehydrating, and freezing bags for the year, that urushiol sneaks its way in anyway. You would think I’d learn my lesson and just stay away from them completely. But one taste of a smooth Glenn or a lemony Nom Doc Mai or a juicy Valencia Pride is all it takes to remind me: an annoying rash is not enough to keep me away from mangos.