Monday, July 22, 2013

Mango Madness

Upon arrival to Vieques Island for my house sitting assignment, the homeowner offered the other new house sitter and I a tour of his garden. It was beautiful to see the trees we were to care for and to know they would be providing us with mango, papaya, bananas, pomegranate, and starfruit to enjoy.

Starfruit in the garden.

We were lucky enough to be able to harvest some mango as well as bananas before the homeowner's departure - as you always want to pick fruit here before it is fully ripe so that you be able to enjoy them - and not attract rodents into the garden. It was wonderful to make delicious banana smoothies and enjoy some dehydrated as a special treat.

What I particularly was loving was the mango from our garden. It was amazing and juicy! Not like any other mango I have ever tasted!! They were so delicious, I was having one regularly for breakfast and often a second one later in the day and was fully appreciating their immense flavor. I had developed a habit of sucking every last drop of tasty juice from the inside of the skin as well as off of the seed inside as I didn't want any of that juicy goodness to go to waste.

A delicious mango smoothie with fresh sunflower sprouts.

I was taught how to cut and peel a mango...which is very easy. What I wasn't told was how to eat a mango...

Is there really a wrong way to eat a mango? YES! :)

Sucking every last drop of tantalizing juice from the skin and the seed inside of the fruit is not the smartest what we were told as children of not allowing anything to go to waste - is not a statement that applies to the mango.

So to make the story a little more interesting, I had jumped right into the thought frame upon my arrival - 'how can I be a contribution?' :) I was seeking out things that interested me like working with kids and found this wonderful program through Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust called MANTA.

It was exciting when the organizer of the Trust called me back and asked if I could make it to the Trust by 11 AM. I looked at the clock and thought, 'Yes - definitely'. It was fun to have my first volunteer assignment on the island.

The Trust invited me to share in 'Tree Day' with the young children of Vieques visiting the 400 year old Ceiba Tree (Tree of Life) and the mangrove trees. They also allowed me the opportunity to help with a group from the Windom Spanish Immersion School in Minneapolis, MN for a day trip where we would provide snorkeling, sailing, pedal boating activities for the students, parents, and chaperones. Being from Wisconsin it felt like being with neighbors and was a wonderfully enriching experience helping many kids and parents snorkel, often for their first time. (I will write more about these experiences later and other magical synchronicities.)

400 Year Old Ceiba Tree on Vieques Island.
During this activity I was noticing the feeling of a cold sore coming up on my lip - which looking back would have been a welcome event. I went home and tried everything to get it to calm down. Instead the most horrendous outbreak ensued beginning around my mouth and spreading to my nose and chin. It became alarming when a numbness began to occur in my lips and tongue - almost as if I had been given Novocaine by the dentist. It was awful. Then the rash spread to my chest, arms, back, and finally my legs.

It was a two week allergic event that was extremely painful and I did not want to leave the house. The only place that could offer me any solace was being in the ocean - snorkeling and sharing in the beauty of the fish and the reef in the warm salt water.  It provided my heart relaxation and body comfort. This time also offered me an opportunity to consider many things - like how could something that is so good create such an incredible reaction - and how can this event be a contribution to me? Finding the silver lining has always been one of my strong points.

It took about four days of the inflammation and rash for me to really begin trying to figure out, what the heck is this reaction being caused by? I had stopped on my way back in from snorkeling to visit with the other house sitter and mentioned that I wished to figure out what was going on with my skin. Ted asked me 'what are you allergic to?' I said the only thing I am allergic to is cashews.

He mentioned a recollection of a conversation with a local on Vieques who could not go near a mango tree due to a severe allergy - and did I know mango is in the poison ivy family? If there was ever a light bulb moment, this was it! Big blazing 1000 watt light bulb! You have to love those great - aha - moments. :) Cashews are in the poison ivy family! An earlier conversation with my sister, Toni, regarding my cashew allergy - she shared this fact with me about this relationship to poison ivy and cashews containing urushiol.

From that moment I began researching, and discovered a condition non-affectionately termed 'mango mouth'. I looked at google images. Researched the mango correlation to poison ivy and found that the urushiol is found in the skin and seed of the mango. Urushiol is a natural protection for the tree that helps to keep insects away from the fruit. Fresh mango generally has a higher content of urushiol in the skin than mango found in grocery stores on the mainland as the storage time helps the urushiol to dissipate some. It was likely that my reaction was worse because of the correlation of already being allergic to cashews and because I was attempting to savor every last drop of juiciness out of that skin.

For the next week and a half I tried to do everything in my power to calm the symptoms. I researched making compresses and tinctures. I made a poultice from fresh arnica one evening - it was as though there was a memory releasing from a very distant time. It was a moment of feeling a love for the Earth, for having fresh arnica in the garden and for the blessing of this herb to provide comfort at a time of great need. The doTerra melaleuca and lavender oils mixed in a coconut oil base were also very helpful as they provided instant relief for hours that I could continuously count on. The rash finally ran it's course and with some valuable lessons learned.

Being a contribution to others has always been a part of the legacy I wish to create - to make the world a better place. This time though also had me contemplating my own needs and how to best be a contribution to my own well being. It gave me some time to look at my life at what I need to and want to change. To live from a place of survival has been my history...treading water. It is time to honor the magic that is available in knowing that all things are possible and to create a life that is thriving. I made a declaration to me during this time to find a way to be a contribution to others that will also contribute to me in all necessary areas of living life to it's fullest. I can't think of a more fulfilling way to be and to live life.

A good mango is delicious and should be well respected. Watch this video from on how to cut a mango. It is best to allow the fruit closest to the skin and around the seed to be discarded. Not everyone has a reaction to urushiol - but being cautious and aware when eating fresh mango is advisable - especially if you have past experience with reacting around poison ivy or have a cashew allergy.

Some say that I may still be able to eat mango taking these precautions, which may be a possibility. I now have homeopathics on hand in case of a future reaction, though it may be a while before the temptation lures me into another round of 'mango madness'.

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